What you see in 13 hours at the polls

The couple walks in, their cracked fingers intertwined. She smiles out from under a bold magenta hat. He, in a faded grey coat, grips your hand with a firm shake. “Thanks for being here today,” he says. “No, thank you,” you say as he walks up to the voting machine. You look into both of their eyes and wonder what they’ve seen.

They’re in their 70s if they’re a day. Old enough that they voted before the Voting Rights Act and you wonder what they experienced then.

You’ve spend more than a dozen years as a journalist and it’s so easy to be jaded. You had meet enough politicians who say one thing on the record and another off the record. You saw shortsighted views outweigh longterm vision. You saw

As a voter, you see enough adds soaked in bullshit that you’re ready to throw your hands up and scream into the void, “Why bother?”

But that couple is why.

So is the millennial with the Trump flag pin. And the 59-year-old who shimmies out of the voting booth, pumping her fists and declaring, “Take that, Mr. President.

On Tuesday, working 13 hours at the polls, Democracy is on its most beautiful display.

The woman in the “Scott Wagner for Governor” hat who holds your hand after she votes for the first time in her more than 50 years. The Hispanic man who wants to vote, says he’s never registered then smiles and thanks everyone when he is given a registration form. The woman who helps her visually impaired husband vote, even though he picks different candidates than she does. The voter who takes a sticker for their spouse, forever lost to dementia, and tells them that they voted. “I can’t, in good conscience, bring ’em,” the voter says. But the spouse will go to bed with ease believing they did their civic duty even though they don’t know the candidates.

And the kids. Those beautiful kids. They follow their parents up to the computer screen. Sometimes the parents even let them touch the screen. They high five you when they come out.

Today, I could have easily grumbled about lackluster candidates, low turnout.

Instead, I think of the people who trudged through the rain, walked more than a mile, or brought a friend or loved one to vote for the first time.

And I thought of the teacher who made it to the polling place less than 72 hours after giving birth.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” the badass patriot said. “It’s too important.”

Indeed it is. Patriots at home, in uniforms and suits, have died protecting that right.

We must cherish it and protect it.

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