Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Standing in Line to Vote

Voting an absentee ballot to save time is for sissies. I voted the old fashioned way today: I went to the polls and stood in line. Admittedly there wasn't much of a line.

Secret ballots are one of my favorite things about the U.S. There were secret ballots in Senegal, but voters lined up in different places to vote for different candidates. Their preferences were hardly secret.

The year my Peace Corps village voted, two Senegalese soldiers arrived to guard the ballot box. They were delighted to learn that an American woman lived in their assigned village -- you know how those American women are! They hurried to my hut to see if I really lived alone and to introduce themselves. Their suggestion of visiting me again after dark won them a chilly reception. They left the next day with the ballot boxes but without visiting me again.

People waiting in lines are another of my favorite things about the U.S. When I wanted kola nuts in Senegal I would go to the guro stand and wait patiently for my turn. Men wearing grand bubus and Islamic caps jostled me as they stepped in front of me. Children squeezed under my elbow as they wormed their way forward to watch the kola nut seller fold back the moist leaves that lined the woven baskets of red and white nuts. When I found myself squeezed back out into the street, I would give my money to a friend who elbowed their way into the stall and emerged with kola nuts.

No one jostled me or squeezed in front of me when I voted in the Idaho primary election today. The woman sitting at the table with the ballot box pronounced my name correctly when she told the world that I had voted. She tucked her white sneakered feet under her chair and looked at me over her reading glasses. She did not suggest visiting me tonight.

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