I can remember when Election Days were simple. You made up your mind about who and what to vote for. You reported to the appropriate voting site. You showed your identification. You were given a ballot. You marked it up and handed it in. You went home.
Things have changed. Or so I hear. This year, one presidential candidate wants everyone to show up on election day at the designated site. But the other candidate encourages voters to use mail-in ballots. Some of these can be lost, or smudged, or not signed properly. This can allow the candidate to contest the entire election, and pitch us all into limbo until the Supreme Court, or someone else, chooses the winner.
Early voting, by printed ballot, has already begun. Hang on, folks. October promises to be a rough ride.
Voter turnout could be increased by giving out a door prize to every sixth, or 60th, voter. Another method would be to get rid of grouchy poll workers. Most poll workers are courteous, but in all my years of voting I've met a few who made me feel guilty for showing up.
"Where's your voting card, buster?"
"I don't have it. Won't a driver's license do?"
"I suppose so. Sign your name, and be quick about it. There are others waiting."
"And whaddaya mean registering as an N.P. — a No Party? Isn't the Democratic or Republican Party good enough for you? I bet you're some sort of Communist, aren't you?"
And so on.
I liked it better when you went into a voting booth and pulled the curtain behind you. It felt secret, the way God and our forefathers intended it.
Today, you're likely to stand in front of a half-open cubby-hole, where a spy or nosy neighbor can sneak up and see how you vote.
Then he shouts "Aha! You voted for Wintergreen! Don't you know his wife is a thespian?"
In the old days you pulled a lever to cast a vote. Today it's more likely to be a pin stuck in a hole or a felt-tip pen marking a slot beside a candidate's name.
In some elections I will vote only for some of the candidates I like. I will deliberately vote for a lousy candidate if he is an overwhelming underdog and cannot possibly win.
By voting for the underdog I can help keep the front-runner honest and humble, especially if he or she is the incumbent. They may be doing a good job, but it makes them try even harder when they learn that there are voters out there who opposed them. Maybe.
The best part of an election is getting to wear the "I voted!" sticker on my shirt all day. I used to go around sneering at anyone who wasn't wearing a sticker. But on one election day I met a man whose wife had died that morning. He looked at my sticker and said, "I won't be voting today." That taught me that good reasons may exist for not voting.
Years ago I heard a story — probably unlikely — about a county in New Jersey controlled by a patriotic tough guy who insisted that every eligible voter should go to the polls and vote, regardless of who you chose. On election day he and his assistants rounded up all non-voting slackers and took them to a local auditorium.
There they were forced to sit for three hours and listen to the recorded songs of Wayne Newton, Nelson Eddy and Barry Manilow. At the end of the session the captives — most of them weeping — begged to be taken to the election site to cast their ballots. A typical comment: "We'll do anything you ask — just don't play ‘Danke Schoen’ again.”
As some wise man once said, "Politics makes for strange bedfellows." Or something like that.