I missed voting in the early part of the morning, as I had to go to the bank before work and saw I also needed gas. Driving, I saw two polling places in a short drive from home, and thought, I can get those after work with plenty of time before 7. I hadn't realized that extended voting hours had been put in place during the weekend, until I picked up my voting packets on Sunday night. Monday was too busy for me at work, no hours to do both, and I have long enjoyed the act of voting in a booth, in public. I have never sent a mail in ballot.
Tuesday evening was the second night of a cold snap that brought snow to the mountains surrounding the city and reminding us that Nov and Dec are always the coldest two months here. I was going to stop by the church around the corner, then head to the store, and go home to make dinner. The parking lot was packed to overflowing. This can't be right, I thought, as this is a RUN OFF election for Mayor. I kept cruising and went to the second church up the road, and the parking lot empty. Happy to go in and do my civic duty, I found out that the polling center was only open for county votes, school bonds and stuff, and I was in the wrong one. Back to the overflowing church and a line out into the parking lot.
Normally, I would say this isn't very interesting. We had a mayoral election in August that led to a runoff election in Nov. Our mayor Phil Gordon has quietly held office for 8 years, and I can't recall voting for him. We have some odd elections here, other than primaries, in March and August. When people aren't expecting it, or when people are out of town. I like the traditional November holiday triad: Votes, Veterans and Thanksgiving. It is definitely one of our most patriotic months. My father, a Veteran, died on Nov 7, 20 years ago. He instilled my patriotic spirit, and I have even voted when living in foreign countries. Like Spain. And now, it seems, like Arizona.
The last few election cycles have, for the most part, felt like exercises in democracy. Like, you are getting physical therapy and you know how to do the leg stretches and you do them but not really put your effort into it, but you make the motions just to remind yourself you know the moves. Not particularly engaged and not expecting much outcome. I have voted as often as I can here, even for school bonds I had no stake in, just to feel for a moment that I am part of the citizenry and engaged in the process. Living in Arizona, as a progressive, liberal, socialist, feminist, democrat, non Christian is not as easy as it sounds. I am a moderate compared to some other friends. We sigh collectively when the Windbag blows on TV, either Brewer, Pierce, or Arpaio. We are tired of being painted as racist and hateful, ignorant and angry. We aren't Teabaggers.
So, with great pleasure, I got in line and waited the 45 minutes or so to do my duty for what was a 1 choice vote, who will be Mayor of Phoenix. My email inbox gets crushed with legislative updates from Planned Parenthood. AZ wants to kick out all the brown babies and forceably replace them with white babies, who will then end up working for the prison system or be in the prison system. I stand in line between a young mother with two kids who are thrilled about voting. They live across town, but still in the city lines. Also, a teacher who is originally from Chicago, and totally engaged in the civic process. Ahead of us is an elderly couple. We discuss not whom we are voting for, but what issues concern us. The people are not so uninformed, even if we have varying degrees of opinion. One thing we are clear on, we like to show up, in person, to vote and actually have our opinion counted.
And it was. We elected the Democratic/Independent choice. He was the only non GOP/Tea Party candidate when it was a 6 way race in August, and fought against his opponent who is rumored to be backed by the Koch brothers (they have a heavy handprint here, remember the Keating Five? That was around the corner. Dan Quayle's son is a rep here now, in my neighborhood). Although it was not in my district, the fine citizens of Maricopa RECALLED Russell Pearce, Teabagger. He used to be the main henchman for Arpaio, and is the legislative puppet master for our Governor, Jan Brewer. The ones that wrote all that hateful legislation last year, the anti illegal immigration laws. In my inbox from Planned Parenthood was a rejoicing email, finally, that the tides had turned and the wise citizens had fought back in record numbers at the polls, and ousted the TeaParty and replaced them with Dems or moderate Republicans.
I would like to thank OWS for bringing civic engagement back to our attention. I would like to thank all the volunteers who show up at the polling centers and answer endless questions and take endless abuses from the citizens, as we turn towards a better election process (citywide, which means more steps to turn in a ballot - for now). I would like to thank the people on the line for reminding me that we may have lost our jobs, income and houses (health insurance, relationships and sanity...) over these last two years, but we have not given up our belief in the power of democratic process. I don't know exactly what the future of Arizona holds, but I know we have made a sharp turn to the left and are driving away from the rallying cry of ignorance, fear and hatred.