A Valuable Vote

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It was one of those days of early summer that I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. Underneath an American flag, attached to a post on the front porch of their white clapboard farmhouse, a large white pot of purple petunias sat on the steps. The election was warming up in the county, as well as our country, and all up and down the country road they lived on, you could find yard signs in almost every front yard. That was, except Uncle Sid’s. He doesn’t believe in that foolishness, at least that is the way he puts it.

Now Uncle Sid comes from a long line of politically active farm folks, and he lives from issue to issue of the U.S. News & World Report magazine. He was really disappointed when they did away with the benches at the county courthouse, causing the political discussion professionals and whittlers to have to move. But that’s what they call progress, and it makes the area more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But, Uncle Sid called that a bunch of foolishness, too.

Aunt Sadie met me at the steps of the back porch and led me over to the shaded end of the large screened-in porch to around table painted emerald green where Uncle Sid had a plate of teacakes and was sipping some iced tea. He also was going over the local newspaper sprawled out all over the table in front of him with a story about the upcoming elections.

“Any exciting election news Uncle Sid?” I asked while taking my tea and cookies from Aunt Sadie. I could tell I had asked the right question by the wide-eyed look on Uncle Sid’s face.

“Wouldn’t call it exciting,” he answered. “These days, all the fun has been taken out of elections.”

With my mouth full of teacakes and unable to talk, the old man saw a chance to take control of the discussion. Leaning back in his porch chair and looking straight at me, he waxed eloquent.

“Modern elections have got too many electronics in them. When the old tin boxes and paper ballots went the way of the lead pencil, elections became nothing but a computer circus,” he said. “No more countin’ the ballots and readin’ back the tallies at late hours of the night. Instead of cantankerous precinct officials, you now have cantankerous computers causing late nights. Those machines took out all the fun.”

I could see now all I needed to do was sit back and listen. And that is exactly what I did.

“I remember in one election around these parts, everybody around here was a member of just one party. You didn’t see anyone supporting the other bunch, at least out in the open. Well, one election, a fellow moved in here and ran for office on the ticket of the party that no one supported in these parts. The election came around, and everyone gathered down at the store where the voting was going on. That afternoon, the final paper ballot was cast, the last No. 2 lead pencil was licked and the galvanized tin ballot box was unlocked by the precinct judge. Ballots were pulled out one at a time and the results counted out loud for everyone to hear.

“With most of the votes going to the prevailing party in these parts, one ballot was drawn out of the box marked for the candidate from the other party. Of course, everyone concluded the newcomer had cast the vote for himself.

“The counting continued for another 30 minutes or so, and as the last ballot was pulled from the box, the precinct judge unfolded the ballot and just stared at it with the look of something a coyote wouldn’t eat,” Uncle Sid said now getting up from the table.

He stopped, looked me in the eye and announced, “The precinct judge just made a non-partisan ruling and said, ‘I’m throwing this vote out – there’s only one member of that party who lives around here, and I declare that sorry joker has voted twice for himself!’ ”

Now that’s what I call non-partisan politics.

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