THE BLOG
12/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lessons From the Long and Windy Early Voting Road

If someone had told me this morning when I exuberantly set off to cast my early vote at the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Norwalk that I'd be standing in line for SEVEN HOURS, I might have 1) packed a lunch or 2) reconsidered!

Despite the state's best efforts to corral the enthusiastic voters of one of the country's largest cities into a tent that wouldn't have accommodated a fraction of the town of Wasilla at Bristol and Levi's impending wedding, it was still one of the best days of my life. I couldn't sleep last night I was so overwhelmed with emotions about the historical significance of my participation in this particular election, and when my roommate, Shannon, and I arrived on site, huddled under our umbrellas hiding from the rain, no obscenely long line could undercut the electric feeling in the air. We knew that even if we had to wait all day (even without the incentive of a whirl on Space Mountain at the finish line), we were going the distance.

Fortunately, the people waiting with us concurred. At 9am, we were strangers, but by 2pm we were the best of friends. After dispatching Shannon to McDonalds (which was so packed with herds of hungry would-be voters she actually had to wait in line for almost an hour there!) to fuel up for our never-ending voyage, we were swapping stories about our vastly different lives, sharing resources to build a makeshift camp of our chairs and jackets, and filming impromptu videos with our camera phones to upload later on YouTube. We were having such a hoot that an intrigued NBC reporter stopped by to interview us, a motley crew consisting of a dad from Altadena, a mom and son from Inglewood, a couple of sisters from Hawthorne, a dad and his young son still clad in his Halloween Spiderman costume, a recent college grad from Manhattan Beach, and Shannon and I from hipster gentrified Highland Park.

I was reminded, yet again, this election season how capable and committed Americans are. Some people following my day on Twitter sent me messages asking whether many people were leaving the site in frustration, and the answer was no. Virtually everyone was in it to win it, with an exuberant attitude too. By the time we all made it into the tent, where we were assigned three digit numbers and asked to sit in chairs for more than an hour while we waited to be called, we might as well have been on "The Price is Right." When a new person's number was announced, surrounding seatmates would erupt into applause, high fives abounded as the chosen ones walked down a line to claim their ballots, and every ten or fifteen minutes a good-natured voter would yell "Bingo!" Somehow, that joke never got old.

Probably because no matter how aggravating and inefficient the process was, it was a day to feel blessed and proud to be an American. Looking around at the different color faces, thinking of everyone who had sacrificed before us so that we could all have the luxury of being bored together under that tent, I thought of how bold and audacious Americans have been in their pursuit of defending our founding principle of equality. As far removed from checking Sunday football scores on iPhones as it might have seemed on any given Sunday, the spirits of the cotton fields, tunnels of the underground railroad, the Woolworths counters, freedom riders, Dr. King, and the Kennedys were not old lessons from history books today. When I finally stepped into the voting booth, I stopped to say a prayer of thanks that I was given an opportunity to realize those dreams.

Tonight my prayer is that on Tuesday, every American who wants to experience this pride on election day will be able to cast his or her vote fairly. It's alarming that the City of Los Angeles was not able to accommodate our voters with more than a single place to cast our early ballots, and I worry that polling stations will not be equipped to handle the inevitable turnout surge that is about to descend on counties, bigger and smaller, throughout the country. I implore everyone to be patient and positive, and most importantly to remember that we've waited a lifetime to vote in an election like this. We can wait another hour. Or seven.

*NOTE: If you experience problems on election day, consider using the Voter Suppression Wiki.