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April 26, 2016

Tips on Election Day

Harry M. Covert

In case all the wise and ebullient people have somehow forgotten, today is Election Day. Perhaps the county-wide polling centers will be stormed and keep the judges busy, unable to take a break to go to lunch.


Some five or so years ago I continued my civic duty by strolling into the Talley Recreation Center in Frederick. Just so happened I ran into a couple new friends. One of the officials was a haberdasher's delight with vest, lime green sports coat and dark trousers. The gentleman was smiling and directed all to get ballots.


Within minutes ballots were marked and pleasant small talk began. No poll takers were around in the gym, of course, but an aroma of crab cakes filled the air.


Right then and there, I was a card-carrying local voter and Fredericktonian. I found out this great voter snack service was being discontinued. To this day the good and charitable people haven't been back on duty. I sure do miss their smiling faces and courtesies. This is the way to make the voting day so homey and effective.


Lots of chatter is always ongoing to require by law every citizen to vote. People in Australia must vote or they are fined. That won't fly here. Not a bad idea, but some knucklehead or rebel would object to their civil rights being violated. Courtrooms would be busy adjudicating all the way up the ladder and SCOTUS would have to rule. This could take years.


It's rather disturbing that good people come up with so many excuses to avoid voting: "I don't like politics;" "I have a doctor's appointment;" "I'm playing golf;" "My dog's sick;" "We're having a prayer meeting;" or "I'm posting my wife's or husband's bail."


These are not made-up. All the professional politicians, their agents, consultants and hacks do try to find voters. This is good. In my teenage days we had driver's licenses at 15. On Election Day we picked up tips carrying balloteers to the various polls. They had to use No. 2 lead pencils. Partisans found the vehicles and us chauffeurs. Almost forgot: everybody was a Democrat. The other party wasn't noticeable and really, our neighborhood didn't notice.


An eager teenager could pocket some $30 or $40 around town. We didn't have to buy any gas either because our precinct captain, Mr. Floyd, provided a few bucks. In those days gas at the Crown Station was 23 cents a gallon, bread 19 cents and first-class stamps 3 cents. A bus ride for one stop was a nickel and you could have a transfer.


On this day all the liquor stores for those who imbibed, and the courts were closed, so there could be no illegal detentions of opposition voters.


Today, campaign workers with draft ballots to pass out will be out in force. I don't know if the volunteers receive any bonuses, but it was not unusual in days of yore for poll workers to earn 50 cents an hour for their civic duty. Finding good citizens wasn't difficult. How else to demonstrate love of city and county.


The poll taking profession had not raised its ugly head. Guess work really was a candidate's forte. Once the polls were closed at seven o'clock the final tallies weren't ready until about midnight. And it was the electoral board, and only the board, allowed to release totals. Afternoon newspapers had the results.


Now tonight winners and losers will likely be known moments after voting ends, thanks to the computer age and $2 a gallon for regular gas.


Go to bed early and get ready for the next campaign. We do need a rest.


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