Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Susan Martinez writes

We voted early yesterday, Sunday. The line wrapped around the county courthouse -- it had been that way all week and the previous weekend too. Weekend polling was extended 2 hours, and til the last minute people filled the line.

There were first-time voters of all ages and backgrounds, many-time voters with crutches and wheelchairs, but mostly, families with babies and little kids waving flags. People with absentee ballots drove to the courthouse to physically put their ballot in the box rather than mail them. "This is historic, for a thousand reasons," we all said.

I chatted with the fellow behind me for a while, but he tired of the line and was about to give up and try again on Tuesday. I talked him out of leaving and, in the end, he stayed and cast his ballot too. A woman held a sign with her wedding photo, asking us to vote No on Prop. 8 so her marriage wouldn't be declared invalid. Another woman was busy recruiting people to call undecided voters in swing states to vote for Obama; she did brisk business.

My mom has campaigned in Pennsylvania, my sister has campaigned in North Carolina, and both will be working the polls tomorrow, probably longer hours than they anticipate. My friend Don is traveling with the campaign covering it for radio. My friend Bill Bragin in New York had an online fundraiser ($41 campaign donation in honor of his 41st birthday, bring your receipt to his favorite bar and he'd buy your drink for his birthday, mitzvah style fine whether $4.10 or $82 or $4200...the email went viral and he raised many tens of thousands of dollars for the campaign). I've given money to this campaign, multiple times (every time I got an email saying "We're picking ten people to be in the front row at Grant Park on election night", I thought "I want to be there" and sent another $100). The calls, the emails, friends traveling to Nevada and Colorado to canvass door to door...I've never been so involved in a movement so large, but I felt it most profoundly standing in that line to vote on Sunday.

As I connected the arrow next to Barack Obama's name, I was overcome with emotion. I stared at the arrow to burn it in my memory. I sealed my envelope, signed it, and I paused. I don't know how many times I've heard Obama tell his story, but like mine it could only happen in this country. This day my vote was for my black great-great-grandmother working the underground railroad. This vote was for my Navajo grandmother who I look like and my white grandmother who I am like. This vote was for my Martinez grandfather who mined silver, and my immigrant white grandfather who mined atoms with the Manhattan Project. This vote was for my father, training in community organizing along side Cesar Chavez for farmworkers, and creating the first bilingual classroom in the state so that none of his students would be second-class citizens in their own school. This vote was for my parents, who couldn't get married because of miscegenation laws still being enforced. This vote was for the lunch counter sit-in my family staged when we couldn't get served at a Kansas HoJo unless we signed in as Martin. This vote was for the real working Joes chronicled by Studs, not the Joe the Plumber masquerade of Joe the McCarthy. This vote was for the 200,000 families I'll help at the hospital this year and the 900 volunteers I'll recruit to help me. This vote was for Saleh.

I thought of all these people and all the times they did not have a voice, and I heard Obama's words "there is not a red America or a blue America" and I put the ballot in.

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