I was a Legal Observer on Election Day, assigned to a small, near-West-Side Hispanic district. While there was much that was unremarkable about many voters’ engagement with the process, and a few moments of minor drama throughout the day, here are some images I think I will carry with me for a very long time.
A tattooed, leather- and denim-wearing, combat-booted young man, standing for nearly 45 minutes filling out his ballot. He frowned as he folded and tore the stub, as if he dared not damage the documents. After he fed his ballot pages into the scanner, a poll worker handed him an “I voted today” sticker. I will never forget the sweet smile that broke the seriousness of his expression as he peeled the backing and placed the sticker on his leather jacket.
A young Hispanic couple walked in, hand-in-hand. After getting their ballots, they turned to the room and announced to everyone, “We are new Americans, and we’re voting for the first time!” Then they took each other’s picture with their ballots.
A mixed-race couple voting side by side at separate booths. He finished first and waited for her. She turned and asked him to help her fill in her ballot. Very discreetly he whispered, “No, this you have to do yourself.”
An older couple – she seemed to have one paralyzed arm. He steadied her ballot so she could use her good hand to fill it in.
A teenager, decked out in her finest, tethered to her iPod. She sat at a table, solemnly studying every word of all the voter assistance material furnished by poll workers before settling in to fill out her two long ballot pages. She was there for nearly an hour.