A petite brunette stood a couple yards beyond the 75-foot voting site pale, and she had her eye on me as soon as I got out of my car and headed for the building. It’s pretty common around here to be hit up for cash in parking lots by sketchy folks with elaborate sob stories, and I was wary. But it was not my money she wanted.
“Do you know about Prop. 403?”
“Which one is that?” I asked. We allow voter initiatives on the ballot in Arizona, and every election there’s a slew of them to wade through, most of them parochial, self-serving, or downright crackpot schemes that no one needs. This election was no different.
“The one to improve funding for public schools.”
“Oh…right. Yep, I know about that one,” I said as I continued on my way, avoiding the flyer she was thinking about handing to me.
As much as it pained me to do it, for the first time in my voting life, I would not be voting for the tax override for a school district I was living in. TUSD has a very public history of misallocating the funding it does have. Just this summer, it was reported that they’d lost track of $1.6 million in resources in the last year, and all expectations are that that number was low, as some schools didn’t even bother to complete an inventory. I’m thinking if I blew $1.6 million on durable goods, I’d have kept track of them; I expect no less from public entities who spend my money.
A few years ago, they sent out requests to parents to provide the toilet paper and paper towels to their elementary schools, because the district just couldn’t do it. And a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of their campaign to get this budget override passed, the new superintendent announced that members of the top-heavy administration would be sent for $3500-a-head Disney training, to be paid for out of the superintendent’s office budget, which of course is taxpayer financed. Even if the training is brilliant, announcing that’s what you’re spending money on while you’ve got your hand out for more is poor form. As a former public school teacher, I have always voted for school funding, even once I left the classroom and despite the fact that I have no children. However, this district needs to clean house and show some fiscal responsibility before I add my name to its blank check. It needs to mend fences with this city. Until then, if I want to give money to the schools, I will buy supplies myself and give them directly to teachers; it’s the only way they and their students will get ahold of them.
When I walked in at 8 a.m. there was only a single person ahead of me in line. There was a slight delay as the guard at the ID-checking station changed, and the gentleman who was being relieved said “I quit!” with a smile on his face as he slowly got up from his chair. He was elderly, like most of the election workers, and did not move easily in his body, but he had a terrific smile that continued in his eyes. He came to keep an eye on the line, which at that point was me, and we chatted.
“Good morning!” I said.
“Good morning! How are you?”
“Fine, and yourself?”
“I’m magnificent!” he said, emphasizing the “nif” in such a way that I could tell that he meant it.
“You know, I need to work on that. That’s a great attitude to have.”
“And it works, too. I got so tired of asking people how they were, and they’d say, ‘I’m hanging in there’ or ‘I’m trying’ that I decided that I would be ‘magnificent.’”
“Good for you! That’s really great.”
And it is. That’s the kind of person I want to be. I’m not, but maybe someday, if I keep working at it.
I got my ballot and started filling it out. We still do paper ballots here, and I prefer that. I work in technology, and in QA no less; I have no reason to trust that brand-new technology is going to properly count my vote, and from the reports I read on Election Day, neither does anyone else. As I worked through both sides of my ballot, I pondered a voting mystery that I have pondered every single time I’ve voted:
Where do they get those groovy markers that can sit out all day, uncapped, and still work as well at 6 p.m. as they did at 8 a.m.? What kind of magic makes that possible?
I am ever amazed to find that in addition to the two major party candidates for president, there are always two or three more names I’ve never heard of and had no idea were running among my presidential options. And ol’ Ralph Nader was there, again. I voted for him twice, I think, some years back. Not last time, and not this time either. Give it up, Ralph; your time has passed, if ever it was here. Some people just can’t take a hint, I guess.
I had seen the projections, and couldn’t avoid noticing all the electoral chickens being counted before they were hatched Tuesday, but I just tried to ignore them. I refused to say aloud that Obama would win to anyone; Democrats nationwide were equally superstitious, I understand, fearing to jinx an election the cockier among us said was all sewn up. We learned the lessons of 2000 only too well. I barely dared to hope, and I certainly had little faith in a citizenry that could’ve elected Shrub. Twice.
I also don’t watch early returns. It annoys me when the media decides to call an election while people are still voting and mail-in votes are still uncounted. It shows disrespect for voting, I think, and it implies that it’s all a sham. Maybe it is, but I like to at least retain the illusion that voting means something; I didn’t wear my “I voted” sticker all day because I think it’s a futile exercise. And I can’t stand to listen to them yammer on for hours when they actually don’t know anything. I want to know when I have a new president; I have no need for the up-and-down drama of each state’s results. I intended to go to yoga instead and enjoy my breath in a world where politics doesn’t exist, at least for an hour and a half, but the voter traffic on top of normal rush hour made it impossible for me to get there on time. I ended up doing yoga at home.
When they called the election, I joined Scott in the living room in front of the TV. We watched McCain give his concession speech, and I thought he showed a great deal of class. If the McCain I saw giving that speech had been the same man who had campaigned, he might well have won. It’s really a shame his audience didn’t follow his excellent example; if the man who just lost the presidency can be gracious, the rabble could probably try not to behave like boors on national television.
But Obama’s speech was incredible. It was brilliant, cogent, and mindful that this is simultaneously an amazing historical moment as well as merely the beginning of a long and difficult road. He was inspirational. He was presidential. His election speaks well of the evolution of our nation in terms of race, and in terms of our clarified perception of what has happened the last eight years. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any faith in my fellow American citizens, but Tuesday night I felt a spark. I felt hope that perhaps the damage can, eventually, be undone. And I was deeply touched at being witness to history being made. My president is a Black man. I think that’s wonderful, however overdue. It gives me hope that my president could be a woman–one I WANT to vote for–in my lifetime.
I was less thrilled with my fellow Arizonans, however, who, after voting down an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state Constitution last election (and making me proud of us in the process), managed to pass one this time, despite the fact that the one man+ one woman language is already state law. That just wasn’t enough for them, apparently. The door is still open, at least for the moment, for domestic partnerships or civil unions.
It bothers me that people are so willing to write hate into the highest law of the land (which is, in fact, the Constitution, not the Bible as some benighted souls seem to believe). Tinkering with constitutions is no frivolous business, or at least it shouldn’t be. And constitutions are meant to protect civil rights, not prevent people from having them. The only amendment to take away rights that was ever added to the U.S. Constitution (Prohibition) was repealed. I really don’t understand how people confuse hate and ignorance with morality, but they do, every day. Bigotry is immoral. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you’d best not presume to instruct me on morality. I tell myself that it is only a matter of time; these barriers will fall, and in my lifetime, I daresay. It’s already happening, all over the world and in more enlightened states than mine.
So it was a good news/bad news election for me. But after 8 years of bad news/worse news, I’ll take any improvement I can get. And we’ll keep working on the rest.