Lunch break civics lesson

One of the joys of running for a public office is the opportunity to meet voters face-to-face; some agree with you and some don’t — but most of them are still respectful, even if they don’t.

I spent a couple of hours today during lunchtime at the Supervisor of Elections office talking to early voters. It didn’t take too long to notice an obvious pattern … not in how the people were going to vote, but rather in whom it was that was doing the voting.

Penny has quite a few designated handicap parking spaces. I can tell you, at least at election time, she needs every one of them, and more.

I observed every kind of walker, cane and scooter chair known to man. A driver from a local assisted living facility escorted a couple into the polls. One woman who was easily in her 70’s stopped to tell me her story as she walked back to her car … which was parked several blocks away in front of the Sheriff’s Office because she didn’t want it dinged from all the construction in the area.

I spoke to a black woman who moved one step at a time; in a cadence that was significantly slower than her pulse. She struggled with her purse, her walker, her seatbelt, and, bless her heart, she even dropped her keys. This was a woman who weighed well over 200 lbs. She was traveling by herself, but, thankfully, someone in a nearby car rescued her from her dilemma and picked up her keys.

She was happy to tell me that she was 79 years young and will turn 80 on New Years Day. I asked her if she had come all this way just to vote. She smiled at me and said, “Young man,” at my age, I love that part, “I have voted in every election since 1964.”

I hadn’t really thought about it, but, women have only had the right to vote since 1920 and, although black people were given the constitutional right to vote in 1870, Jim Crow laws, poll taxes and literacy tests, denied them the right to vote for all practical purposes until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The fact is that although these two women were nothing alike on the surface, it would have taken an act of God to keep them away from the polls.

Talking to these women, and others in the parking lot today, reinforced in me how people who have not always enjoyed the right to vote, sincerely appreciate it. White men have always had the right to vote in the United States unless they were criminals — and even then, they could have their civil right to vote restored after they were released. Perhaps we take the right for granted.

Turnout for early voting was light last week — less than half of the previous election two years before. This week, the last two days especially, have been improving.

It is vitally important that all of us vote in this election. Not just because I’m running for City Commissioner, either. But, because citizens, older and wiser and who have lived in a world where they were not given a voice in their government, have taught me the true value of my vote.

Michael Gold, Editor

Share your thoughts with our readers >>