Adventures in Early Voting

11/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

So I went down to vote early today, hoping to miss Nov 4th's crowds.

No luck. The place was packed tighter than a brautwurst with people eager to cast a ballot. The problem seemed to originate with the lack-of-logic line setup. Voters stand in line for the voting counter, get an early voting form...then leave to fill it out, then stand in line at the same counter to give the form and ID. ...THEN go wait for your name to be called for your turn to vote. All in a room the size of a closet.

On top of that, there was not one sign in the entire building pointing people to early voting. Not one. Anywhere. And about five feet away from the voting line was a line for marriage licenses and deeds. People were so freaking confused and had a really hard time finding the voting line.

Some folks would come, see the line(s), and turn on their heels to leave. After a few of them took off, I decided I had to do something. This illogical setup was ruining the fabric of democracy! (Okay, that's a little dramatic, but I've been hearing too much McCain lately.)

I grabbed a brightly covered envelope from my purse (don't ask), and a marker from one of the clerk's desks and made my own sign. Then I asked  another clerk for some tape.


My makeshift "Voting: line straight ahead" sign (it was easier to read in person).

Whew. Signage. Even if it is crappy.

Most new arrivals would ask for directions first, and since I'd been standing waiting for my name to be called forever, I became the unofficial voting greeter.

This is how it went:

      New Voting Line Person:  "Is this the voting line??

      Me:  "Yes! Isn't this turnout exciting?!?"

After just one of those, other people around me joined in, with a positive ring in their voices, "Yeah, this is great, a long line is a blessing." We all began welcoming newcomers to the democracy family...there was no way they were leaving after that.

It worked. We closed the 'back door', and no one else left the rest of the time I was there.

Oddly, neither of the county clerks had any reaction whatsoever to my earlier requests, except to accommodate them. So I tried my luck again and went back up there. I suggested that if those in line had a form while waiting, they could fill it out before reaching the counter, then have no need for a second trip before waiting for their name to be called. To my shock, they actually came out from behind the counter and started handing them out. The whole line started moving faster.

The rest of the wait was actually quite fun, and all those around me were having a good time helping other voters find where they needed to be, fill-out forms, and talk about how excited they are to vote (everyone in the vicinity was voting Obama, and were very vocal about it -- a very informal poll, and not a shocker, being Chicagoland).

It was a great feeling to finally push my little touchscreen ballot, then verify three hundred times that it didn't accidentally switch me to voting Old Man McCain.

On the way out of there, I realized I needed to get my butt down to volunteer. Fast. So, I went to Obama's website and signed up for phone bank duty at Obama's Chicago Headquarters this week. I'll also see what I can do about volunteering at our local polling station on election day. They seriously need it.

I'm feeling good about having this experience early so I can do what I can to help. Plus, that's one more vote for the guy who doesn't have the kooky idea of freezing government spending as a solution for our fragile economy...

cross-posted at