We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For – Part I

It’s the Wednesday after Super Tuesday and I’m still reeling from the jacked yet jubilant day I experienced. I volunteered with the Obama campaign to be part of an army of mostly lawyers charged with insuring Voter Election Protection. This work entails working collaboratively with polling officials and advising would-be-disenfranchised citizens of their rights so as to guarantee that all who are entitled, ready, willing & able, get to exercise this most precious right.

Why is this a concern? Well, if you’ve been plugged into US Presidential elections in the last 2 cycles, you know that in 2000 & 2004, a number of citizens were inadvertently and/or perhaps maliciously denied their right to vote, especially in OH & FL. So there’s been a somewhat quiet group of folks working to reverse this trend by getting involved with the voting process with training, observation and counseling. So, as part of this valiant effort, I spent most of this election day at a college campus polling place.

I was quite disturbed at the number of provisional ballots being cast. Provisional ballots are used when a person’s right to vote is in question for any number of reasons, e.g., no valid state-issued ID, at the wrong polling place, not registered at all. These ballots are not cast electronically but via paper, and once their sealed envelopes are delivered to the vote counting jurisdiction, some proof positive from the would-be voter must be presented within a certain timeframe or the ballot is thrown out.

You can imagine how crazy this could get, and did at this college, where the students seemed very unsure of the process and their responsibilities in it. Since many of their names were not on the registered voter list, they waited in not one but 2 lines to then cast a vote that may not have counted. I was very proud of their dedicated intention to exercise their voting rights, but ultimately I suspect many of their voices, as expressed via their vote in this landmark election, will fall silent in one of the most important decisions of our lifetime.

I’m trusting that in the aftermath, a collaborative group of students, activists & election officials will develop a creative approach to resolving these somewhat thorny issues. Considered from this vantage point, I was able to also see the virtue of this unfortunate situation: we have time to transform it before the general election in November and we have lots of information and resources to do so. As Alice Walker’s lastest book by the same title powerfully articulates, We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For.

Now I ask you, are you able to find the silver lining when life gives you dark clouds like these? Do you brood excessively, ignore the problem or carefully consider the gift even a bad incident has to give and marshal your resources towards flipping the script? In this situation, I was upset at first, but then I let my mind & heart move towards gratitude and ingenuity for having it all ultimately work out. I was still motivated to go to the Obama Return Watch (really GA Victory) Party at Fox Sports Grill, despite my mixed emotions. So this tale calls up a famous line from A Tale of Two Cities: ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ partying more obvious the best, polling not as much so!

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