A Post-Election-Day View from (a Small Patch of) Ground —by Jinny Batterson
It has taken me longer than I expected to return to a non-election schedule, after several weeks as an election official, first at early voting in our part of central North Carolina, then at a new-to-me precinct on Election Day. Nearly a week after the polls closed, I’m still getting re-accustomed to unhurried breakfasts and lunches, to dinners that are not take-out from the nearest drive-through. No more masking, gloving, face shielding each morning. Just several days of nail-biting suspense as returns continue to be processed and tabulated in half a dozen “swing states,” ours included.
My main take-away has been gratitude for the great turnout. People took this election cycle seriously. Despite the pandemic and a host of logistical challenges, nearly three-fourths of North Carolinians cast a ballot, over 4.6 million votes. As the final thousands of mail-in and provisional ballots are processed, the outcome of the presidential contest will likely not change here in North Carolina, but some of the more local races are close enough so winners may shift.
A second take-away is gratitude at the generally smooth functioning of the election process, at least as seen from inside a polling place. Many voters came equipped with sample ballots. Some had printed off their choices by hand. Others had “slate cards” from one, the other, or sometimes both major political parties. Most abided by requests to wear face masks at polling places. Many wore what looked like handcrafted fabric masks. At the early voting site where I was assigned on a college campus, there were lots of school logo masks, even on voters much too mature to have been traditional students. From my limited perspective, the presence of “in your face” slogans and derogatory sayings on voter clothes had diminished from previous presidential contests.
Much of the time, I was too busy to notice the party affiliation of voters. Even when I was not busy, I tried to avoid making assumptions about the electoral choices anyone might make based on party label or anything else. Occasionally, the spiteful-feminist part of me wondered if some of the well-dressed 50ish white men coming through my line might be compensating for their reduced chances of snagging either a red sports car or a trophy wife by sticking with an orange president. Then I reminded myself how poorly spite performs at governing—we’ve had ample evidence of that during the past several administrations.
This election’s outcome by itself will not come close to solving persistent problems. Whoever staffs incoming administrations at all levels will still be saddled with a virus pandemic spiraling out of control; with badly shaken economic, educational and health care systems; with increasingly erratic weather, more frequent and more severe storms; with record levels of income and wealth inequality. During the transition to the next administration(s), we’ll need some deep breaths (grateful that we can breathe), some deeper thinking, the deepest kinds of listening, and a citizenry that stays as productively engaged in self-government as we did while voting.