I was officiailly Voter No. 1 in my precinct. Even at 7 AM, there was a queue heading out the door. Young ones, old ones, various persuasions. The people who got to the polls early had giant smiles on their face. They longed to communicate their ecstacy to their brethren. This Kerry vote, apparently, was the new zen. Forego your moring jog and cast thy ballot. Better than the morning newspaper and coffee routine, better even than morning sex.
The people I talked with were prepared to commit representative revolution. And they were all ten minutes early. One woman panicked when she discovered that her name wasn’t on the roster. Would her vote count? Would they take that away? She had recently moved and was prepared to go back to her old neighborhood to vote, if necessary. The needs of her job could wait.
I chatted with a poll worker and he said that this was the largest crowd he’d seen in eight years. I asked him if it was going to be a busy day. “Well, you get the morning crowd before work. But this is a big crowd.”
I came back later, and the line was longer at 7:30. Had these people gone through the Tolstoy-length voter information packet in toto? Well, yes and no. “I only vote for the props I feel passionate about. I’m really here for Kerry,” said one of my neighbors. A man told me that he had holed himself up over the weekend and was prepared to incinerate the expensive campaign literature that had been lodged under his doorstep. “Those fuckers don’t know when to quit,” he said. “There oughta be a law.” I knew what he meant. I’d received five automated voicemails the night before that I’d quickly erased.
A young lady of twenty was passing out pamphlets for a supervisor in front of my polling place. I told her that she was less than 100 feet away from the polling place and that current laws prohibited dissemination of campaign literature. She pointed to the door. I pointed to the clearly marked sign that laid down the limit. “Do you really want to be as bad as the bad guys?” I asked. Across the street, an unshaven foirtysomthing man popped his head out of his window and boomed a sterner warning. The young lady ambled down the street, but anyone could see that she’d be there all day.
When I fed my ballots into the machine, there was another young lady with a video camera who captured my efforts to simultaneously hold onto my morning cup of coffee and tear the receipts from the top of the sheets. I could have pointed out to her that she needed a release. But I kept silent. Like the others, this race had emboldened her to shoot a spontaneous documentary. Of what, who knew? Did she foresee another battle in Florida? Was this B-roll for a nonfictional narrative that no one could predict?
If there was any consolation about 2000’s Florida fiasco, it was this: the sham had reminded everyone how important it was to vote. It had awakened the dormant democratic pulse. And even if King George ascends to the throne again, I know that this time it won’t go down without a fight.