While the commentators on this blog debate high theory, I thought as a change of pace I would offer a bit of what the news media call local color. Yesterday, I spent several hours in Pittsboro as a poll greeter at an early voting site. Pittsboro is the county seat of Chatham County and in this mostly rural central North Carolina county, its population of a bit under 4,000 makes it an urban center. My job was to hand out long blue cheat sheets to arriving voters, if they would have them, competing in genteel fashion against Republican greeters similarly tasked. Word among those of us under the blue tent was that at least one of the opposing team was a paid operative, suggesting that the Republicans were having trouble recruiting volunteers.
This being an off year with neither a governor nor a senator up for grabs, the lead candidate on our ballot is Ryan Watts, the young man running for the US House from the 6th NC CD. As previously reported here, I have canvassed for Ryan up north [Greensboro] and down south [Sanford], but Nate Silver, in his latest handicapping of the House races, gives Ryan only a 1 in 7 chance of upsetting Mark Walker, the right-wing sitting Rep, so I am not holding my breath. The ballot is full of candidates for local county offices, about which I know nothing at all, but while I was on duty, I took a break and voted early, laboriously blacking in each oval identified on the cheat sheet.
The hot items this year, aside from the Congressional seat, are the race for the NC Supreme Court and six malicious, deceptively described state constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Republican controlled legislature. I met Anita Earls, our candidate for the court, at a Carolina Meadows fund raiser, and she is clearly first rate. For some mysterious reason two Republicans are running against her and will presumably split the red vote, so my fingers are crossed. There is no problem picking and choosing among the amendments. They are all awful, so “Vote No on the Six” is an easy message to communicate.
There I stood, on a gorgeous sunny fall day, trying to waylay arriving voters before they crossed the 50 foot boundary marked on the paving of the parking lot, beyond which campaigning is forbidden. Turnout was very heavy, with people waiting in their cars for parking places [nobody walks to the polling place. This is America, after all.] Anecdotally, I can report that the Dems were in the lead, at least at this polling place. We handed out many more of our blue cheat sheets than our opponents handed out their white ones. [A cheat sheet, by the way, is a sample ballot already filled out the right way. For as long as I have been doing this sort of work, which is to say for about sixty years, this has been the preferred way of corralling our vote.] As you might expect, every African-American voter who showed up took one of our blue sheets, save for those who smiled and said they already had one.
Despite the piggish behavior of a large young man campaigning for one of the Republican candidates for County Commissioner, the scene was peaceful, friendly, casual, indeed idyllic. This is what democracy ought to look like. Needless to say, there are countless places around the country, including right here in North Carolina, where blatant racially encoded voter suppression is in full swing, and the outcome of the election nationally may well be determined by those efforts. But none of that was on display on Thompson Street in Pittsboro yesterday.
Is there a larger lesson to be learned from my experience [aside from the advisability of wearing a hat so as not to get a sunburn]? Nope. Not so far as I can see. I just thought the account would amuse you, and perhaps lower the temperature a bit on this blog.