Helen Lee Tart
Early voting at Chavis Heights
It is uplifting to watch the voters merge into an ever-changing stream of humanity.
Some of them walked in; some strode in;
Some hobbled or wobbled or rolled in.
They came with canes or even strollers.
Some didn't even come in but were served by Curbside Voting.
They were 7 ft tall and 4ft tall and everything in between.
Slender or round, buff or bland
First-time voters and at least one 105 years old.
Faces in every color of the spectrum of colors that people come in,
And some with tattoos in colors that people don't usually come in.
Wrinkled and smooth, with beards and mustaches, even a few with spots.
Faces with diamond studs, rings, or metal dimples.
Mostly faces with smiles; others with serious, thoughtful expressions;
hesitant, worried frowns; or scowls, daring you to try to keep them from voting.
Long hair, short hair, hair in braids or standing straight up,
exquisitely groomed or never seen a brush;
blond, brown, black, pink, burgundy, purple, and probably even green that I just didn't see.
Even no hair or hidden under hats of every description.
Ball caps displaying everything from ball teams and businesses
to nothing at all, fedoras, berets, turbans, and hoodies.
The variety of clothes overwhelms:
Prim church ladies in their Sunday-best and
young (and not so young) women leaving little to the imagination.
Upright men in business suits and ties stand in line
with grungy, coveralled mechanics.
T-shirts and jeans, long flowing dresses.
Sweat suits, shorts with tank tops
Droopy pants and slacks of every color on all sexes,
Elaborate blouses, simple shirts of every color and design,
Peace signs and pop stars, cartoon characters and
things I’d never heard of,
And a surprising number of North Face jackets.
Logos on every type of clothing:
Family reunions, Churches, businesses;
Chicago or Durham Bulls, New York Yankees,
dozens of high schools and colleges.
Shoes of every imaginable kind:
Myriad versions of the athletic shoe,
even bedroom slippers
and one kid wearing cars from the movie “Cars”.
The people that aren’t voters are even more varied:
Some people too young to vote accompanying adults.
Babes in arms and strollers, or in a line of 3 or 4,
All participating in an adult exercising their right to vote.
Some friends or family lending moral support.
They all parade past the ballot table, each going through the ritual.
Silence as careful workers check each voter's information,
the beep of scanners, the scribble of pens,
the crying of impatient children,
the whir of the machine reading the ballot –
the background sounds of democracy in action.
The only thing the same about each voter is the process they go through to vote.
It is an honor to participate all of this.
Helen Lee Tart is a native North Carolinian and has lived there for all of her 61 years. She's also a local and state politics junkie who believes in every American's right to vote. Unashamedly liberal, she hides her opinions when serving as an election official for her local county. She strives for the objective of every voter having the same experience. When she isn't helping voters, she is helping students by editing standardised tests.