Voting in Memphis

When I lived in the southern part of town for ten years, it was common to see poll workers on election day wearing and distributing material advertising one candidate or another named “Ford.” The Ford family was somewhat disreputable and heavily involved in gaining and wielding political power. These poll workers would routinely, I’d say deliberately, cross the boundaries and accost people who were trying to go in and vote. It seemed to say “We aren’t restricted by the laws. Vote for Ford because he’s greater than the laws.” Those days are gone for now.

Today I arrived at my precinct at 9:10 AM and found it more crowded than ever before in my eight years of voting in this neighborhood. I see from checking a few web sites that our experience was repeated everywhere. I waited in line for 1.25 hours and everything went smoothly. Poll workers decided to put chairs out along the snaking line that wrapped around in the gymnasium. They went around with bottles of water, cups of coffee, and snacks. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood.

There were several referenda on the ballot, none of which was intelligible to a casual reader. I had to study the boogers last night and do a little research to figure out what in tarnation they meant. But I learned and came prepared. It took me about two minutes to cast all of my votes for the referenda and candidates.

Others were not so prepared. As we stood patiently in line, chatting and alternately sitting or standing, we would observe “Is that guy still at that booth?” Some of these brain-deads were standing there for ten or fifteen minutes, reading those stupid referenda and trying to decipher them. Un-bee-leeevable!

Here’s a free-market approach to the problem. Have at least one booth designated for “Express Voters.” If you show up and have a marked and ready voter’s guide that you can show a poll worker, you get an express ribbon pinned to your sleeve. Then you get in line with everybody else; but when the express booth is vacated, the poll worker taps the next voter who has a ribbon and allows him to go ahead of everyone else.

At about 12:45 PM I returned to the polling place to check the crowds and discovered that the long line was gone and things were back to normal. Everyone had rushed to get there this morning, fearing the large turnout, but the fears were unfounded. I see where that has been the case elsewhere across the nation as well.