Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Bipartisan Look

I arrived at my polling place at 6:25 a.m. this morning, a good 35 minutes before the doors were thrown open and my fellow Maryland residents exercised their right to choose who will lead us for the next four years. It was a mere 26 degrees Fahrenheit as I pulled into the Methodist Church two miles down the road wearing a vintage winter coat over my warmest yoga pants, a thick knit sweater and a toasty, faux-fur hat.
First in line (at left in red coat) at my polling place today

I was the very first voter to arrive at my polling station, but within five minutes ten others took their places in line behind me. By the time the doors opened at precisely 7:00 a.m., the line of Baltimore County citizens preparing to choose our next commander-in-chief stretched up the steps, down a walk, around a corner and out into the parking lot.

Once I entered the voting room, the entire process of having my registration verified, being issued a ballot card, entering my choices on an electronic voting machine and casting my ballot took only eight minutes, probably because I had spent some time the evening before thoughtfully considering my choices and filling out my sample ballot, which I brought with me. As I was leaving, I exchanged friendly greetings with neighbors I hadn’t seen in awhile and then made a dash for home, where I warmed myself with a cup of hot tea and marveled that it was only 7:15 in the morning.

For my commute to the nation’s capitol a bit later for a day of research at the Library of Congress, I chose a bipartisan color-scheme. What better way to honor the democratic process than to wear both red and blue? I started with my favorite vintage black travel slacks from JCPenney and added an equally vintage royal blue top from UNITS, a tiny boutique of coordinated separates I discovered on a shopping trip in Northern California with girlfriends in the late 1970s. I added a vibrant red swing coat from the same store and pulled the colors together with a multi-colored scarf I bought at the same time as the knit top and the swing coat. With the addition of some ancient yellow enamel earrings to give my outfit an additional pop of  color, I grabbed my warmest driving gloves and headed out into a glorious, if a bit chilly, autumn day.

With temps reaching only the mid-40s today, we’re a good ten degrees below the average for this time of year in the mid-Atlantic region of the country. Still, as my car radio crackled with news about the electoral process, I was warmed by stories from my fellow Americans about the importance of casting a ballot. While Australia was first to grant women the right to vote in 1893, the same year my maternal grandmother was born in Pennsylvania, she did not enjoy the privilege of voting herself until she was 27 years old. My own mother was six years old before women were granted the right to vote in this country in 1920, an honor Great Britain did not extend to its fairer sex until eight years after that.

I don’t take the privilege lightly. I consider it an honor and my duty as a citizen to make my voice heard, to participate in the democratic process, with all its warts and wrinkles. And as I listened to reports from all over the country today about long lines of voters stretching for blocks around their polling places, it seems I am not the only one who feels this way. And that is a very good thing.

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