9:30 am –
The playground of Irving Elementary was soaked when I walked across it to get to the gymnasium entrance. Across the street, lawns were littered with signage and the sidewalks crowded with campaign volunteers, trying their best to do some last minute persuading within the parameters of election law.
Inside, there were registration tables setup at opposite ends of the gym. There wasn’t a line at either of them, which was confusing in itself. I was distracted by the openness of the space, the freedom to go left or right or to stand in the middle of the wooden floor for however long I wanted before someone suspected me insane. There seemed to be more election officials than voters. A few young faces beckoned me to the table on the left side of the gym and so I went, to the very end of the table where a young lady, not much older, it seemed, than 20, asked me my name and almost just as soon said that my name wasn’t coming up.
“Do you know what precinct you live in?” she said. I didn’t, which was somewhat problematic.
“I know my address,” I said. The young lady waved that off. It would be no help. I needed to know my precinct number. I stood there on mute for a moment, until someone in my periphery began yelling my name. It was a woman who goes to my church. She informed me that I needed to go to the opposite side of the gym. I wondered how she knew this. She said that she’d just seen my grandfather leave not too long before I arrived. We live in the same precinct.
I thanked her and walked to the other end, where another young face, apparently not much older than 21, quickly found my name and asked me to sign on a line in a large book of signatures. I did. And then an older woman asked whether I preferred to vote electronically or by paper. I decided on the former, not having voted in this manner before. The entire process took no more than 5 minutes. As I began to leave, an older gentleman rushed past me bearing (what I bet for the workers) was a kind of relief: “Donuts courtesy of Mayor Henderson Yarbrough everybody.”
Back outside, a man from the University of Illinois approached me with a survey that asked questions ranging from my opinion on Medicare cuts, Medicaid cuts and social programs to help low-income groups to my thoughts on Maywood corruption. I thought a bit before filling the few pages out. The questions didn’t allow for much nuance. A few were loaded, as is typical with surveys. There were some on which I had really no knowledge on which to base any kind of informed judgement. But I circled them nonetheless, letting my gut guide me.
As I walked away from the school grounds, another campaign worker asked me from across the street, “Was it complicated?” He meant voting. “No, not really,” I said, loosing my sticker from its paper backing and placing it on my coat. The sticker did some kind of magic on my emotions, producing an elation similar to knowing that as you walk, a wad of money accompanies you. And for at least a few minutes, despite the overcast, the world was bright with possibility.