By RW Anton
Early voting started in New York City. I awoke with a determination to cast my ballot – to be counted. There was no rush, but I knew that I needed to get it done as soon as possible.
That first morning, I washed up, ate, dressed, and headed out. My polling place is in the next block from where I live. Before I reached the corner, I could see the lines. Those lines snaked up, down, and around… and around the block. My heart sank a little.
Taking out my phone, I started at the front of the line and walked around the block to record this phenomenon. I have voted every year since I was eighteen years old. I have voted in several cities. I have voted in this particular neighborhood for the last seventeen years and four presidential elections. Never have I seen lines outside of my polling place.
The line wrapped around the entire block more than twice. It bunched and stalled and crawled and bundled. The faces I noticed were not happy, but they were not mad either. They seemed to be nothing more than determined.
At one point, I thanked those I passed for coming out to vote. My mind was reeling at the connotations, but I didn’t stay. I couldn’t stand out there that long with more than a week of early voting left. I made a video, to post to Instagram, about the experience. Then, I walked home and began uploading and editing the video on the massive crowds standing in line – not for a concert but – to vote for their government representation.
I planned to try again the next day. Again, I arose and got myself together and trudged to the next block. Again, lines were wrapping around and around. I’ll try again tomorrow. Tomorrow is a Monday, and most people will probably be at work. I thought this, forgetting that it’s Covid season and thousands, if not millions, of people are laid off or unemployed.
Never-the-less, I arose early and attacked the morning to stand in line. Stand in line, I did. Except, I forgot that my polling place wasn’t opening for another two hours. It was a cold and dreary morning. It started to drizzle. I gave up and went back to my warm apartment.
Thwarted! Once again, I felt like I could have tried harder. But, I still have several days left. I’m undeterred. I will try every day until election day if need be.
Before heading to bed that night, I checked the weather and noted two decent, partly cloudy but warmer days coming. Yes! I should be able to handle that. I fell to sleeping soundly through the night and woke up early, once again, to have some fruit and oatmeal and head out. I had forgotten that the place didn’t open until noon, so I picked up a few things at the store and made my way home.
I have my plan. It’s cool but not too cold outside. I’ll go out at 11:15 and wait for their noon opening. That’s it. Today is the day. I hope today is the day. I’m already getting a tad exasperated with the whole thing. My enthusiasm is beginning to wane.
Then I remembered, they just confirmed a new Supreme Court Justice in the middle of the night. She had been sworn in at the Capitol in record time. No! It was more than enough to reinforce my resolve.
The time came. I packed my bag with a few things to keep my mind occupied. Approaching the corner, I saw the line was barely two blocks long – much better than the last few days. I took my place, and people started quickly filling in behind me. Before twenty minutes had passed, people had occupied the next block and a half. I couldn’t see where the line ended.
It was still a little chilly as the sun was barely peeking from behind the clouds. I mentioned that I lived close by and might go to get a jacket, and the guy behind assured me that he would hold my place, but I stuck it out for a while.
The line began moving in fits and starts. I looked up from the game I was playing to see the line coming towards me. It wasn’t my line; it was the second wrap-around of the new line. It was beginning to extend past me. By now, it was about 12:15.
It seemed that the line was moving incredibly slowly. I got around the next corner and needed a bathroom break. My buddy held it down for me. We had never met and only talked for a brief few moments, but he was now my buddy. He was behind me. He had my back.
I probably should have grabbed another jacket and scarf while relieving myself, but I didn’t want the line to suddenly start moving and leave me behind. So, I handled my business and quickly trundled myself back to my space. They had barely moved.
Thank God for a good book and Bid Whist Plus. I read and played, read and played. Now and then, I answered a few texts and quickly stuck my head back into my iPad (which was down to 13%), but I was approaching the final corner. The doorway was just beyond that corner.
When I rounded that final bend, I felt the sunshine down on my body, and my outlook instantly improved. My spirits lifted, and I started looking around to see if I recognized anyone from the neighborhood. I didn’t. There were so many faces, and I didn’t want to stare. There was lively conversation here and there, but, like me, most people had brought along things to keep them occupied and entertained. They were busy reading, talking on the phone, playing games on their devices, and sweating out this once-in-a-lifetime, Democracy-threatening election.
Am I being a bit dramatic? No, I don’t think so. Every person who follows politics believes this is the most divisive election in the history of these United States. We all know that there needs to be a resounding defeat of our current president to send a message to Washington. I don’t know if we can do enough, but I would not miss this chance to save my life (and lives may be in danger due to the risk of catching Covid).
The doors to the building are looming closer and closer. The poll workers admonish us, again and again, to keep our social distance. Instructions are given. The front of the line is getting antsy. We enter, take our places, sanitize our hands, step forward. Step forward, please. Thank you.
I retrieve my ballot, mark my choices, and run it through the machine. Counted! Counted! Counted!
If history is to be made this year, I resolve to be a part of that history. I have lived to tell the story. It took what seemed like a lifetime, but I did it. I stayed the course and made my mark. I hope it counts.
God! I hope it counts.
R.W. Anton is a singer/songwriter working out of New York City. He studied vocal music at the Cleveland School of the Arts and Baldwin-Wallace college and created a youtube series that has garnered him over 5 million views on the platform. He is currently perfecting his writing craft and looking forward to telling stories, in fiction and non-fiction, that inspire readers to approach life with maximum passion.