After waiting nearly two hours to vote in 2016, I timed my voting for mid-morning. I was shocked when I signed in, at 10:20 a.m., only to find that I was voter #455 in my ward. To me, that seemed like a remarkably small number given the polls had been open for over three hours by the time I voted. Were people waiting until the after work hours or was the rain keeping them away? (I am hoping for the former, not the latter, reason.)
As I walked out of the precinct with my umbrella ready to open, I was handed an unexpected “gift”:
Our wardman felt it was important to give people “I Voted” stickers so he ordered them himself! Hopefully, the folks who haven’t voted yet will see more “I Voted” stickers around this year. I’m hoping that translates into higher voter turnout because being #455 at 10:20 a.m. was disappointing.
I peered out of the window in the office where I was conferring with a teacher. The sky was blue on one side and a smudgy dark blue on the other. It was 3:20 p.m. Our debrief was technically over. While there was more to discuss, I was feeling edgy about the impending storms.
“I should get on my way,” I said.
“You should,” she replied. “You have a long drive home and it looks like it’s going to storm — soon.”
I packed up my things, used the bathroom, and walked to my car. The juxtaposition of the sky’s hues alarmed me. I paused before I opened my car door. I heard nothing but the laughter of children on the playground. No thunder.
My focus continued to be on the sky — and the road, of course — on my drive home. I watched the GPS’s mileage lessen as I got closer to home. But I also watched the sky turn a murky blue-gray.
As my car headed east towards Duncannon, I noticed bolts of lightning in the distance. My first thought was please let the rain hold off until I make it across the Juniata River. My second thought was an odd one. Please don’t let the rain start until after I vote.
That’s right. I was first worried about making it across a narrow bridge over the Juniata. My second concern was that I’d make it to the polls in one piece.
I made it across the Juniata unscathed. But moments later, it seemed as though every tree’s blossom was blowing through the air. I heard thunder. I noticed flashes of lightning behind me. Then, the skies opened up. It was POURING as I made my way closer to home.
You still have to go to the polls to vote in the primary, the proverbial angel on my shoulder told me. Involved citizens vote in primaries.
But the devil, so-to-speak, on the other shoulder kept saying, “No one will care that you voted if you get hit by a bolt of lightning on the way out of the polls.”
I gripped my steering wheel and tried to tell the “angel” and the “devil” to shut up.
But I didn’t have to. You see, as I approached home (which was east of where I was working today), it seemed I had beat out the storm. The wind was gusting, but drops weren’t falling. I drove past my street and to the local elementary school where I hustled out of my car to vote.
Our local wardman recognized me. “Thank you for braving the weather to come out to vote.” (Obviously, this was nicer than telling me I was out of my mind for being out in this weather.)
“I hope I can get out before it starts to pour,” I said.
“There’s no line!” he declared.
Of course, there isn’t, I thought. No one, other than the poll workers and a couple of campaign workers, was at the polls. There was literally no one else voting. Do you know why? Not only was the sky ominous, but there was a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado warning in effect.
Today was a monumental day in Pennsylvania. Our congressional map has been redrawn. As a result, the ruling from the State Supreme Court is an attempt to put an end to gerrymandering so that our congressional map can achieve partisan balance. Fair congressional districts matter and that’s why I braved horrendous weather to vote.
Thankfully, I made it home in one piece. By the time I arrived home, I filled bottles of water, grabbed a lantern, and a wind-up radio, and got ready for the possibility of sheltering in the basement since the tornado warnings were a reality. Thankfully, nothing touched down near our home.
I took Isabelle to the polls with me. She was having trouble saying “voting booth” when I explained what we were about to do. So, I tried another combination of words to practice.
She repeated the words after me several times, not knowing what they really meant. And even though she didn’t know what it really meant, I got her to do it anyway! That is, I let her press the “straight ticket” button in the voting booth. Then, I put her down so she could register her (MY) vote.
After we left, she said that she wanted to go back again. That was music to my ears. I explained that she could come back anytime there is a primary or general election. She can’t wait!
Later in the day she was talking to my mom and out of left field she said, “Vote Democrat.” I guess my little morning message stuck. Brainwashing or early voter education? Let’s say it’s the latter!