Thursday, October 23, 2008

Early Voting, The Interminable Wait

I haven't missed an election since I was old enough to vote. Even before that, as a toddler, I remember walking with my grandmother to vote at the Betsy B. Wislow grammar school four or five blocks away from the house. After she voted we stopped at Browne's Pharmacy and she bought us ice cream cones, chocolate for me and coffee for her. Was it the ice cream that kept the event ingrained in my memory? No, it was probably the continuous lecture that I was receiving on the importance of voting, how lucky we were in this country for having the right to vote, how our family had come from a country where people didn't get to vote for their leaders, and how my daddy was overseas fighting a war to preserve our right to vote....and on and on and on. It really meant something to her.

In the past few years "early voting" has been introduced. Around here most of the usual polling places are closed for early voting, but for two weeks before the election you can go to the open ones and vote. This week it's mornings, next week afternoons. Then on Election Day all the neighborhood polls will be open all day long. I vote at the Congregational Church two blocks away.

I'd heard that the line at the North Miami Public Library was around-the-block long, that the wait would be at least two hours in line. Yesterday at times it was four hours, and we've been having scattered light showers to boot. Some people brought lawn chairs, some brought umbrellas, and there were a lot of thermos bottles and bags of snacks in sight also.

The city has several charter amendments on the ballot in addition to the usual stuff. It's a l-o-n-g ballot so voting goes slow. Under normal conditions that would have dissuaded many voters from coming. North Miami's population is about 60% black, mostly Haitian, plus a fair amount of Hispanics, mostly from Central America. Most of the were grateful to be here but still thought of themselves as Haitians or whatever. There was no big rush to become U.S. citizens. Mostly they didn't vote.

When it became pretty obvious that Obama was going to be on the ballot that changed things. That around-the-block line had three or four white faces at most and everyone was talking Haitian Kreyole to one another. Block after block of houses have Obama signs in their yards. That includes the more upscale neighborhoods by the bay which are mostly all white. I wandered around in the drizzle for awhile getting some black and white photos of the crowd, library in the backround, flags fluttering from the flag poles in front. At this rate everybody who wanted to vote will have voted by election day, but I'll come back next week, vote if it looks reasonably possible, and run some color film through my Leica M2. It's set up with a 21mm lens.

I shot this photo a few years ago, but it's a good depiction of the way I felt wnen I saw those long lines. Most likely I'll soon be replacing it with a photograph from this election cycle.

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