I have always liked the excitement of voting on election day. It’s political junkie Christmas. This year, with the college freshman voting for the first time, it just seemed wise to be early voters. As always, we loaded up the entire family to visit the polls. “Why do we ALL have to go?” “Because it’s important.” The grandparents called and joking tried to discourage us from canceling out their votes. “The lines are HUGE. You’ll be there for hours. You should wait and vote Tuesday night after 5 pm.” They sincerely offered to watch the two youngest children while we voted. I decided that taking feral child to the polls was more for me than for him, so the children played with their grandparents while the rest of us voted. Well, Doug, Tommy and I voted while Noah looked bored and Sarah complained.
Doug asked for a demo machine that Tommy could practice on despite the fact that Tommy went into the curtain and got a lengthy lecture from me while I voted last year. “Anytime you have a question, you stop touching the machine and ask for help.” There was no practice machine and Doug was further irked when they said the machine directions were printed and taped to a table in the back of the room. I am over it, but still annoyed that high school students don’t use the machines for student body elections. I even asked the high school if a sample machine could be brought in for all the special ed students to see, but that idea was rejected. We’re beyond that now. Tommy calmly walked off and voted without any assistance.
Noah went with Doug and Sarah went with me. Sarah did her very best to play by the 15-y-o girl rulebook. She acted bored, complained a lot and argued with everything I said. I tried to distract her game and told her to work the machine for me. “Turn the knob to put the numbers in the machine.” Sarah was horrified. She tapped all over the screen, determined to prove to me that the machine couldn’t possibly be so archaic as to have an old knob instead of a cursor or touch screen. I tried to be nonchalant while mentally having a mini panic attack. “Oh no! I tried to engage my daughter in the political process and she thinks I’ve taken her to a primitive campsite where you have to rub sticks together to make fire.” She worked her way through the ballot until we reached the review screen which I always stare at and read several times. Then, she pushed the big button. I stepped away from the machine with a nervous buzz. Did I follow the directions exactly? Will this machine be one of the machines that eats votes? Sarah went right back to her ‘this is totally pointless and boring’ behavior.
We celebrated Tommy’s first vote with frozen yogurt because I’m not creative enough to come up with an appropriately symbolic way to celebrate. The next day, we found out that his peers hadn’t registered so they could vote this year. I knew their birthdays. I should have sent them voter registration cards. I wonder if things would be different if Tennessee high schools required civics classes. The high school students did have a mock election yesterday. Obama was the students’ choice. Maybe he was their parents’ choice and they were just voting whatever they’ve heard their parents say. Either way, even though the win was uncomfortably close, it’s still a good sign in this very Republican part of the country. While driving Sarah and her friend to Winter Guard practice at another high school, the friend let it slip that the sign in our yard has been a source of annoyance for another parent. I smiled quietly when the friend asked if I had early voted and Sarah answered for me. “We all went and I voted FOR my mom.”
The elementary school is having a mock election on Monday. Amy woke me up at 7 a.m. this morning asking me to help her make a sign to wave at the elementary school election. Since I had been awake past 2 a.m. fetching the high schooler from a bonfire party and packing for the middle schooler to go camping this morning, I begged for more sleep. When I came upstairs, I found a piece of poster board bigger than Amy decorated with clouds, birds and the words “Obama” and “Biden.”