Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Some poets romanticize it as "the majesty of the people," those long lines of folks waiting to celebrate winning events or pay respect to fallen leaders. On this day, we simply call it waiting to vote, and in Minneapolis the morning dawned with picture perfection.

The precinct where I live on the edge of downtown Minneapolis consists of 28 city blocks. About 4,500 of us live there. Until today, I have never seen so many people from the neighborhood on the streets at the same time.

After joining the line a block from the entrance to our polling place at the Minnesota Church Center, it took an hour of waiting before my ballot was handed to me. It was a lovely wait. Bright blue skies. Temperatures approaching 70 degrees – on Nov. 4! Sunlight sparkling off the golden leaves still clinging to their trees. The slightest of breezes. Some quiet conversations taking place here and there. Mostly, though, quiet.

I remarked to the woman in front of me that it felt like waiting in line before an Obama rally. "Isn't that what this is?" she replied.

The residents of my neighborhood are 98% renters and mostly young, students, and others starting to get their bearings in life and the city. Such a wonderful and motley lot! In small groups they share daily the tales of their toils on front stoops, in coffee shops, and online.

To look at them waiting to vote is to see calm, certitude, and strength. They are the future. They know why they are there. A few ideologues there may be, but no one has brainwashed them. Things have gone awry and they are there to take it back. They are voting their hopes and their dreams.

I love every one of them for it.

McCain may receive 60 votes from Precinct 6-4. There will be a handful of votes for four or five others. The rest belong to Obama.

When Marilyn finally handed me my ballot, I remarked that today's turnout will make up for all those years when she and her colleagues waited all day for 95 of us to show up. For the past 36 years, I have not missed a primary, general, or special election save one. People who think their votes do not count should participate in a primary election for municipal candidates!

There are small-print decisions to be made on two sides – three columns to a side – of a legal sized ballot. In addition to state and city questions, we have candidates for president, Congress, the legislature, school board, soil and water conservation commission, and more than 30 judicial races.

When I feed my ballot into the tabulating machine at 11:24, the counter notes that I am number 738. I calculate that 190 have voted each hour since 7am. After applying the red "I Voted" sticker to my sweater, I head out and count another 150 people standing in line, with more approaching from all directions. At that rate, 2,500 will complete their voting by 8pm.

Walking through downtown on the Nicollet Mall, the red stickers appear everywhere. These are our badges of majesty, worn by us who have drunk the kool-aid of America.

We believe.

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