A beautiful sunny morning, with damp warm air. I walked the half a dozen blocks to the Congregational Church of San Mateo, noticing little shoots of green poking up everywhere, prompted to grow by the light rains a couple of weeks ago. A big sign outside the church said “VOTE HERE,” and there were smaller signs in Spanish and Chinese, presumably saying the same thing.
At the table for Precinct 2628, two people looked up my name and each of them carefully crossed my name out on their lists of registered voters. The next person at the table had me sign my name in a book, and then she gave me a receipt with an access code on it.
I walked over to the voting booths, and found an open booth between two occupied booths. I cast my votes for U.S. president, U.S. representative, state senator, member of the state assembly, member of the county board of supervisors, member of the county board of education, three members of the board of commissioners of the San Mateo County Harbor District. I also cast my vote for eleven state ballot initiatives and three county ballot initiatives. The only way I got through all those votes without my eyes glazing over was that I brought a sample ballot with me on which I had marked all my preferences. (Years ago, I would do all my research for voting in newspapers, and usually you couldn’t get much information about local candidates; now I can do all my research for local candidates online.) When I finished voting, the same people were still in the voting booths on either side of me, still working their way through all the votes they had to cast.
On my way out, it occurred to me that I was one of the few white people in the room. Of the election workers who checked me in, one was Hispanic, one white, and one Chinese; of the voters I saw I think perhaps there was one other white person. Not that this is surprising; San Mateo County is a white minority county, and in the part of the city of San Mateo where we live whites are clearly in the minority. But it also occurred to me that most of the candidates on the ballot were white.
It also occurred to me that the presidential election is so close, and the campaigning has been so vituperative, that no matter who wins, the other side will be convinced that that the election was somehow stolen or rigged or in some way illicit. Too many illegal voters voted, or legitimate voters were denied the vote, because voter identification laws were either struck down or enacted. Too many people voted for one candidate not because he was qualified but because he was black, or too many people voted for one candidate simply because he wasn’t black. Whichever side loses will claim the vote was thrown by the amount of money spent, or by shadowy forces operating at the margins of legality and outside respectability.
The vituperation which has characterized this campaign will continue for months or years as Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals refuse to talk with one another, and say nasty things about the “other side” when representatives of the “other side” are out of hearing. In far too many Unitarian Universalist congregations, people will stand up during “joys and concerns” and imply that an election was stolen, or imply that their winning candidate is the second coming of Jesus who will save America; and in far too many Unitarian Universalist congregations, people will openly talk about the evils of the Republican party, or conservatives; conveniently ignoring that evil is not restricted to a political party; and doing great damage to our religion by equating political stances with religious values.
But I put all that out of my mind. The election workers had given me a sticker reading “Yo Vote – I Voted – [Chinese characters] / San Mateo County / Presidential Election”; I peeled it off the backing and stuck it on my shirt pocket. I walked out of the church and down the street, enjoying the warm California sunshine.