November 4th, 2008
02:09 PM ET

Ten minute democracy

David Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

In at 6.50 a.m. Out by 7.50 a.m.

Not bad considering the hours-long waits endured by people in my county who chose to vote early.

In the pre-dawn dark of an Indian summer day, I pulled on jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt and made the short drive to my children’s grade school. Inside Oak Grove Elementary I found a not-too-long line stretching from the cafeteria down a familiar hallway lined with art projects and book reports written on leaves cut from brown construction paper.

A few people read morning newspapers. I turned on my iPod (Dvorzak’s “New World Symphony” felt like a good choice for Election Day) and read a summary of the three state ballot initiatives. I nodded to a neighbor from down the street and recognized the parents of a few of my kids’ friends.

A pair of poll workers – senior citizens, a man and a woman – walked the line, checking a printout of the voter rolls to make sure everyone in line was registered to vote at the school. Beneath my name was that of my 18-year-old daughter, who today cast her first vote. My wife uses her maiden name, so she was elsewhere on the list.

[My wife and daughter voted about 11.45 a.m. and reported only a short line and little waiting time. My daughter, who reads newspapers (real ink-on-paper variety), wishes she had studied more on the local issues. She’s not alone.]

If you were age 75 or older, you could go to the front of the line. Despite his wife’s urging, one silver-haired gent said no, he would wait with everyone else, but he relented when everyone else urged him forward.

Once the hour reached 7 a.m., the line started forward, slowly and amiably. Inside the cafeteria, where I have been entertained by my children’s classmates at lunch, I signed the standard identification form. This was checked against the master list (by computer, not those heavy books of the past). I was given a yellow plastic card and directed to another line. By my calculations I would be the 110th person to vote.

There were 14 voting booths set up in a row. I would vote on a Diebold “accu-vote” machine. The absence of a paper trail for each voter has many states moving away from this type of machine.

Georgia had a relatively long ballot this year. After making by selection for President, I patiently moved on to the U.S. House of Representatives and local judges, sheriff, county executive, school board members and public service commissioners (several of these people running unopposed) and those ballot initiatives. I wavered on one of them, voting no and then changing my mind to vote yes. I confess to relying on friends and members of my congregation for advice on some of the local races.

Reviewing my choices, I realized that I had neglected to vote in the U.S. Senate race. That list was next to the presidential candidates and easy to overlook. I made my selection and touched the screen to send my votes into overall count. The yellow card popped out and in exchange for it I received a sticker with a picture of a peach, a symbol of the state.

Then it was back home for breakfast, a change of clothes and a drive to work, where I would spent the next dozen or so hours dealing with voting issues from across the country. Fortunately, I had none.

Filed under: 2008 Election • David Schechter
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