Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How democracy should work: voting in de la Plains, Virginia

I could write something profound about the election results. But, instead, I simply want to share my voting experience. Our polling place is in the Parish Hall of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in De la Plain Virginia. On the way to the polling place, where I had only been once before, I got lost. Finally I pulled up at a house that had a couple of cars parked in the driveway and knocked on the door. Two small dogs barked a warning and after a short wait, an older woman came to the door, which she opened without hesitation.

I explained my predicament and she responded with directions, which she repeated to be sure I was clear. I introduced myself. “I know your wife she said.” I told her where we lived and we had a brief conversation before I drove off.

Emmanuel Church and its parish hall are white frame buildings. On the walkway approaching them, under beautiful, ancient trees, resplendent in fall colors there were two adjacent tables, one for the Republicans, the other for the Democrats. No ‘attack ads’ here. The workers at the two tables were engaged in friendly conversation, stopping only to hand out literature to those who asked.

In the polling station, the poll watchers and election officials were working together. ID cards were checked in a friendly manner. No glitches or confrontational checking. (of course that would not have been the case for African Americans, fifty years ago). We had the option of either paper ballots or electronic voting. Surprisingly, most voters were choosing electronic. I chose paper – the lines were shorter. The election official said “are you -------‘s husband. Didn’t I see you at the Orleans Fire Department Oyster Roast on Saturday night.” He had. He was the ticket taker at the door – all the oysters you can eat for $20, which included a donation to the department.

Voting took about 10 minutes and the way out I met three other neighbors. We take or politics seriously in Fauquier county – turnout was anticipated to be more than 80 per-cent, I heard one official say – but not too seriously.

Miles from Washington DC, it was a morning when we could feel good about our neighborhood, our neighbors, the democratic process and our country.


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