It’s Election Day in Illinois!
I love election days. Some of it probably comes from getting the day off school when I was younger. I used to love working the bake sale with my girl scout troop as a kid. The teachers usually used it as a professional development day, so we had off school while they were still there. They would stop by our bake sale during their breaks and chat with us. I looooooved my elementary school (still do) so it was extra special to get to be there in the after hours where I got to run around and chat my janitor’s ear off.
When I was in middle school, we would have cheerleading bake sales on election day so I got to gossip with my friends while manning the booth. I enjoyed the extra time without the distraction of a workout to catch up on who was dating who. We would always end up at the diner down the street for some extra time together.
In high school, I started tagging along with my brother to the polls. We would stand outside holding signage for candidates. I loved meeting the voters and being complimented for my engagement at a young age. When I went to my polling place today, there was a teenager who couldn’t have been older than fourteen helping his mom who was serving as judge. I thought of my brother and I standing in outside the polls and wondered why he decided to tag along at such an early hour. His enthusiasm didn’t give me the impression that he was dragged against his will.
My favorite election day was when my brother brought me to the closing of the polls. We would stand around waiting for the results to be counted then move to the next one. It was bittersweet seeing the disappointment in the challenger’s face when he saw our candidate was pulling ahead but the interaction was always sealed in a handshake. We would go back to the Democratic Headquarters, which I loved, because it meant meeting up with my brother’s politically active high school friends and being spoiled with compliments on helping out or wishes for a hopeful future from our generation. Being at the Democratic Headquarters also meant an endless supply of root beer and whatever treats were laying around in the kitchen. I would also like to note that I met my future sister in law at a young Dems meeting at headquarters and thought she’d end up his girlfriend someday before either of them did.
In Chicago, I’m less active. I tried to help with a candidate this year but my surgery recovery was more draining than expected so I had to bow out. I usually cast an early vote – both for convenience and to support the fact that Chicago allows early voting. In Illinois we have two very important seats to fill – Governor and Attorney General. Both have about eight candidates running and a lot of money has been poured into the gubernatorial primary. With both a Pritzker and Kennedy running, there’s a lot of money available. We’re looking to overthrow Bruce Rauner in the general election so 2018 is an important year for our state. With Lisa Madigan’s announcement that she was not seeking reelection for Attorney General, eyes started going onto her seat. While Attorney General is important in any state, it’s especially important to have someone in office that will keep the citizens of Chicago in mind. In a world of gun violence, racism, and extreme segregation in Chicago, we need someone who will look out for the best interest of all of our citizens. With the wrong person in that seat, the rights of our citizens could easily be disregarded for enhanced “law and order”.
So much time was going to have to be spent sifting through Attorney General candidates that I put off my research until the last possible moment. While I wasn’t thrilled with myself in my decision to not vote early, and waiting until election day meant waking up even earlier than my already too early 5:40am wake up, I was filled with warm nostalgia once I made it to the polls. I love election day. I love the older volunteers who spend their entire day helping people cast their votes. I love candidates standing by the polls welcoming people in. I love the signs. I love overhearing conversations – today I heard a volunteer explaining to a man what a primary was. While I prefer a world where everyone is an informed voter, knowing that someone who was not engaged politically still knew he should get out a vote was heartwarming. I was disappointed when I first got to the polls and found out that I was the first voter. Polls had been opened for about ten minutes and I wanted a bit of a line. But by the time I left, there were about seven people waiting to cast their vote, which was exciting because my polling place was so small.
It reminded me of the morning of the presidential election. How I saw lines out the door of mostly blue collar workers with earlier wake up times than I have as I passed each polling place on my bus route. The joy I got when I went to vote early and found at least 20 people sitting in the waiting area to register to vote. How many interpreters the early voting places had to assist citizens who did not speak English. While it didn’t work out for us that time, it was still a warm memory that gave me faith in my district.
Get out and vote. There’s still time to learn about the candidates, and there are four really important questions we’re voting on as well. Even if you don’t want to vote for a candidate, vote for what you stand for on those issues.