How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Early Vote

Until this election cycle, I never gave much thought to early voting. Considered it my civic duty to schlep my son and daughter to the polls on Election Day, queue up in long lines with elderly citizens in exercise suits and teach my kids something about the democratic process so they would learn that they were, in fact, not the boss of me.

But this election cycle, I had suffered early and often, watching every presidential debate, the endless polling, the pathetic posturing for political advantage that sucks the soul out of each candidate. And I made up my mind. Frankly, I couldn't understand how, at this point, anyone who inhabited this planet and had the same 500-channel DISH package that I did could remain undecided.

To avoid what might be the longest lines in recorded history, my wife and I trekked to the polls on Tuesday after dropping the kids at school. (They voted on Monday.) Yet I remained fearful that some literature-laden politician or worse, a community organizer, might engage in electioneering and violate my ballot security.

Democrats and Republicans approach this issue differently—the D's fixate on voter intimidation, the R's on voter fraud. Dallas County Democratic Party chair Darlene Ewing told me that a roving band of 20 volunteer Democratic lawyers were circulating among polling places, ferreting out campaign shenanigans at the drop of a flier. Any reported incidents to date? Not many, she said, other than "Republican candidate for state House District 101 Mike Anderson giving away hot dogs at a Mesquite polling place." I asked what kind of hot dogs; she didn't know. But sheriff's deputies were called to the scene, and the party's lawyers alleged Anderson was trading hot dogs for votes.

Not so, countered Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman. "Anderson was handing out hot dogs to all voters, and not asking them to vote Republican." I asked Neerman if the Republicans had any lawyers protecting the culinary integrity of the ballot, and he said his party had some on standby, but so far, things had been relatively quiet, unlike 2006 when there was a litigation field day over electoral infractions.

Secure that my vote would be counted, I remained in a short line at a North Dallas polling place, after fending off the intimidation tactics of an elderly man who tried to dissuade me from voting by talking incessantly about the weather. Nevertheless I stood before the touch-screen machine and made my selections up and down the ballot. Then I was instructed to press a red light that flashed "VOTE"— and with a lump in my throat, I did. Wasn't just a relief to get it over with—it was friggin' cathartic.