Today my mother headed to the polling station at 6 a.m. It’s not that she’s eager to vote, though she is, but she’ll be setting up to open to other voters. Mom’s an Elections Inspector, meaning she’s the poll worker who supervises the other workers at the polling place. At 78, she’ll work from 6 a.m. until well after the polls close at 8 p.m., when the couriers come pick up the ballot boxes. She’ll get two breaks, one in late morning and one late afternoon.
Mom’s been doing this for several years now, prompted by three things: 1) she has the time, 2) she will earn $150, and 3) she believes fiercely in our right and our responsibility to vote.
My mother is not a political person. She does not like to discuss politics and gets irritated when the conversation turns to politics. We especially get expressions of displeasure if the subject comes up at the dinner table, and woe betide anyone who brings up politics during, say, Thanksgiving dinner. My mother is not particularly interested in candidates. The only politician she ever truly expressed admiration for was Dianne Feinstein, and that’s because of her strength under pressure, especially the day of the Milk and Moscone assassinations. Mom is fond of quoting the senator, who admitted to saving her tears for the privacy of a shower.
But voting. That’s different. The right to vote is not about politicians or policy or propositions. It is about exercising a right, embracing a responsibility. My mother has felt this way as long as I’ve known her. I don’t think she has ever missed voting in an election. She’s instilled this in her children, too — and anyone who will listen. She took us with her to vote from the time we were little, and I remember being fascinated by the voting booths and all the equipment, the silence as people went about their civic duty reverentially. I grew up believing that voting was our most precious right and was expected of us, as Americans. Perhaps at other dinner tables, children were told to finish their meals because there were starving children in Africa, but at our house we were told to vote because there are people in other parts of the world who are not allowed to vote, or who get attacked voting, or have to walk days to vote.
The day I turned 18, in the summer before my freshman year of college, I registered to vote. I don’t recall if I had already obtained the voter registration form or where I got it, but I do remember filling it out. I chose a party I am no longer affiliated with, but that’s another story. Within eighteen months, I had voted in a primary and then a Presidential election. I was practically giddy to have had that opportunity so soon in my voting career. My candidate lost, but that didn’t matter. I had actually been able to vote!
Tonight, I will join my mom in the ranks of election workers. My partner and I signed on to be couriers. When the polls close at 8 p.m. we’ll pick up the ballot boxes from the two polling places in our town — including the one my mother is in charge of. Why are we doing this? The reasons sound a little familiar: 1) We have the time, 2) we’ll get paid $65 each, and 3) we believe fiercely in our right and responsibility to vote.
Oh, one more: We can avoid the stress of being glued to the TV all night…