First-World Voting

My husband and I early-voted on Saturday. We didn’t realize the downtown was filled for a street event, so finding a parking spot took longer than expected. Once we hiked to the early-voting location, we took our place at the end of a line that wrapped around two sides of the block. As we stood in the mid-day warmth, marked-up sample ballots in hand, and the line crept forward, we tried to remain patient. We had other errands to run, a full day of activities planned. This was supposed to be a quick in-and-out effort.

We reminded ourselves, more than once, that we were lucky to get to vote.

But as a process improvement analyst in a past life (think Lean and Six Sigma), I couldn’t help but speculate where the bottleneck might be. I predicted it would be at the initial check-in point where the poll worker looked up your record, verified your information, and signed the sheet that said you were you. I knew that since it was an early-voting location it would not be quite as easy as going to the A-L or M-Z station at our regular polling place and pointing to our names in the book.

Indeed the check-in was the bottleneck. My irritation began to show as we stood observing two dozen empty voting booths while only three poll workers checked people in.

“It doesn’t help to complain,” my husband said, more than once.

After an hour of standing in line, we were glad to have cast our ballots—and had completely missed our next appointment.

We reminded ourselves, more than once, that voting was the most important thing on our to-do list that day.

We forget, all of us, we forget on a regular basis, how lucky we are to have the right to vote. Those of us who aren’t white males haven’t always had that right here in the US. (Thank you, 15th and 19th Amendments!)

We forget that people around the world struggle for the opportunity to cast a ballot. We forget that some people have to worry about suicide bombers and armed attacks when they go to the polls. We forget that some people consider a purple thumb precious.

Instead we complain about getting time off work, about waiting in line, about inefficient processes. We complain about having to educate ourselves about who and what is on the ballot.

We forget that our problems are first-world problems.

To all the election workers who staff the polls so the rest of us can simply show up and vote: Thank you.

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