I worked the election drop box in Edmonds, WA yesterday for the Snohomish County elections. In Snohomish, we don’t have polling places. People fill out their ballots in the privacy of their own homes and drop them, postage free, in the mail or bring them to local drop boxes. If you know me, you know that I am not very politically active. I rarely express political opinions on social media or really even in person. While I’m skeptical that our votes really matter in the bigger elections, I do believe that our voice makes a difference in local elections. I don’t believe that you have the right to complain about things in your community if you don’t vote. I have voted in every election since I was 18 when I excitedly stepped up to the polling place for the first time. I spend hours poring over the ballot and make informed decisions where I can – weighing the pros and cons and reading opinions from both sides of any issue.
On election day, Snohomish County feels it’s important that the boxes be manned (or womanned) so that it shows that our County cares; so that there is someone there to answer procedural questions; so that someone can hand out stickers and celebrate the democratic process. This year, at least in Edmonds, I was one of those two people.
I didn’t know what to expect. As we drove up, with our bright orange vests and official county badges, we had to search a little for the drop box next to the library. We found it under a tree and next to the bike racks. There was no one around and we braced ourselves for a long 7 hours, hoping we’d get at least a few voters. We pulled out our check list and made sure we had all the things we needed – keys, a phone for checking in, little yellow numbered zip ties for securing the boxes of ballots and the dropbox itself, scissors, pens, “I voted” stickers…
Before we were done setting up, the people started coming. One after another, with ballot clenched in hand they approached. We saw young people, 18 and excited to cast their first ballot, eager to tell us how carefully they made their choices and thrilled to get the little sticker that proclaimed their status as a voter. We saw older people who asked questions, who wanted to put the ballot in the box themselves despite the painstakingly slow progress as they approached us and the burled and story-filled look of their hands as they worked to get the ballot in the box – and equally eager to get the sticker, often asking quietly if they could have one for their wife or husband who voted too. We saw families with young children holding hands, in arms and in strollers, where mom or dad held them up to put the ballots in. They clapped for glee when they got a sticker and one young man even whipped around and put a cupcake sticker on me as a thank you. We saw community minded people who had gone and collected the sealed ballots from neighbors and put them in so that they would be sure to get a say. We saw a so many people out with their dogs, getting exercise and voting along the way. I saw red hair and green hair and blue hair and purple hair, no hair, brown, short, long, and coifed white hair. We saw tattoos and piercings. People came in their jammies, their coveralls, ties, jackets, workout gear. We saw smiles and hope and excitement and a feeling of being a part of something bigger than themselves. We heard many thank yous, saw eyes light up young and old when they got a voting sticker, cheers when we said that the voting had been non-stop and that we had to clear the box 3 times that day because it was full, people running to make sure their votes were in on time even though the box wouldn’t close for an hour.
We found out today that our box was the fourth busiest in the county with 2625 ballots coming in that afternoon alone.
My general experience of discussing politics is of people grumpy and opinionated. This was not my experience yesterday. Very few people talked about their views. It was far more about the process – about the fact that, despite whether their view was the same or different than ours, all of our voices mattered.
I got complimented several times on my beautiful smile. Because yes, I smiled a lot yesterday. It was invigorating in a way that I didn’t expect it to be. It restored a little hope and a lot of faith in our humanity to get us through a rocky period of our history. If our little county is at all representative of our nation, we are not as far gone as news and conjecture would have us believe.