Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day 2010 -- Family History and General History

Today's meme was suggested by Thomas MacEntee in his daily "Geneabloggers" e-mail.  We are to talk about voting in our family, any traditions, or any ancestors who may have run for office.

The last ancestor I can point to who held public office would be my 8x-great-grandfather Samuel Packard, who emigrated to Hingham, Massachusetts (Plymouth Colony) in 1638 from Suffolk, England.  He was, at various times, Collector of Ministers' Rates (tax collector, basically) and Surveyor of Highways.  Most of the rest of us have kept a low profile, politically speaking.

I have made a point of voting in each election since I became eligible to vote in 1968 -- primaries, general elections, special elections, whatever.  My husband had an unbroken streak until last spring's primary, when he ended up in the hospital on voting day, and had not taken advantage of early voting.

Early voting is what we have here in Florida, and I'm sure other places must have it, too.  Polling places are established at various venues, usually the local public library or a school.  The polling place is run exactly as the usual Tuesday-election-day polling place, under the direction of the county Supervisor of Elections.  The early voting goes on for something like a week (maybe 2, not really sure) before the election.  My younger daughter and I even voted on Sunday this week!  The library itself was closed, but the meeting room was open, and set up just like the regular polling place.  And the best sight of all was that we had to wait for a voting booth.  There were at least 10 of them set up, and every one of them was full, with a line waiting.  I hope this kept up all week.  We need bigger voter turnouts.

So with voting going on even on the weekends, there's no excuse for anyone able to do so not doing so!  And for the rest, absentee ballots are good, too.  They just require a little planning.

Elections themselves, and the polling places, are quieter than in the past -- at least on election day.  The run-up to the election is pretty doggone noisy these days, but the election itself is not.  No more do party hacks and other malefactors ply voters with liquor, or attempt to bribe them to vote a certain way.  (It's a secret ballot and always has been.  How did these crooks know whether or not a voter was just taking their money and voting how they pleased?)  Polling places are policed by the pollworkers, and poll-watchers can observe and report any shenanigans.  Political signs have to be a certain distance from the polling place (50 feet in Florida; lots of near-sighted oldsters like me who can't see that far!)  And no "electioneering" is allowed within that 50-foot perimeter.  Nobody can accost you in the polling place and urge -- or threaten -- you to vote a certain way.  That is a change from the early days of the Republic, and a good one.

Now if we could just get the screamers and thumpers on the extreme ends of the spectrum to dial it down a bit!

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