Election Day 2004 found me standing at the corner of May Ave. and West Britton Road in Oklahoma City holding up a sign which read “Sportsmen for Brad Carson.” Brad Carson was the Democratic nominee for US Senate that year, and I, being the good Yellow Dog Democrat that I am, waved at the morning commuters encouraging them to get out and vote for Carson. (He lost.)
The reason I used this particular sign was that it was the only one I had. At one point I looked down and noticed that the "O" in the name "CARSON" was shaped like a target. So I became a bit more cautious as to where I held the sign in front of me.
But that's not my story.
My story starts after I had come home around 3:30pm that day. After my street corner time, I spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon walking in North Oklahoma City, an area filled with pricey homes and gated communities. The area reminded me of a statement my papa, the preacher once made. He observed that the poor live in groups while the rich build wall: usually the richer the neighborhood, the taller the walls. Obviously, this was not prime Democratic territory, and I felt worn out from much walking with little to show for it.
I really needed a quick nap before hitting the election night watch parties, but my conscience would not let me rest. I just had to make one more try for this election. I remembered that I had a list of Democrats who lived on my street in The Village, so I got up, dressed myself once again against the cold, and took off in search of Democratic voters. I knocked on the doors on the list, introduced myself to those at home, and asked each if they had voted.
After I had done about 4 blocks, I came to a door that was answered by an elderly woman whom I shall call "Betty". I went into my spiel.
“Good afternoon, Mam,” I said. “My name is Lynn Green. I am your neighbor down the street. Today is Election Day, and I am visiting Democrats in the neighborhood. Tell me, have you been able to get out and vote yet?”
“No,” she replied, “I can’t drive, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to vote today.”
“Well,” I told her, “I would be more than happy to give you a ride to the polls if you need it.”
Betty thanked me profusely. She invited me in her home while she got her coat and her voting card. She got the card out first and then went to look for her coat. I glanced casually at her card. Right then I knew that we were in trouble. Her voting registration was years out of date: 1980's out of date. The precinct number was very old, and the voting location printed on the card didn’t exist anymore. Still, we got in my car and set off to exercise her American right.
I knew where she needed to go to vote because she was in my precinct, so I gave her my arm and together we drove over to our polling place. While with Betty I found out she was 95 years old, still very "spry" as we often say. She had lived in her home in The Village for 27 years having moved from Philadelphia where she had taught at a private school run by the Quakers. In fact, I found out many things about Betty and her family, daughter a teacher and son an engineer, because we ended up spending a lot of time with each other that day. Somehow I knew that enabling her to vote was not going to be the matter of a moment.
When we got to the polls, I found her a place to sit while I stood in line for her. When I got to the poll watchers’ table, I explained to them Betty situation. They checked their voters’ rolls, and, sure enough, her name was no where to be found. A precinct worker, showing tremendous patience and understanding, explained to Betty that the best she could do was cast a "provisional" ballot. This meant that Betty and the precinct worker would have to fill out some paper work for a chance to have her vote counted.Betty wanted to vote, but the forms were a bit beyond her, so with the precinct official sitting on one side of her and me sitting on the other, we moved gamely on. We did our best to get her through the forms.
This was not easy work. Betty did not have some of the information the forms called for. She had not brought her Social Security card, couldn’t remember the number, and hadn’t had a driver’s license in over a decade. However, we finally got to the payoff: Betty was about to cast her ballot.
Now, about this time, I was feeling pretty good about myself. Here I had found a Democrat, and I had personally taken a couple of hours of my time to make sure she got a chance to vote.
And vote Betty did. Voted a straight Republican ticket. She explained to me, “I’ve always be a registered Democrat, but this time I really want to vote Republican for a change.” So I watched, tongue firmly set in my jaw, and re-learned the great moral truth about no good deed going unpunished. Just for good measure, she also voted against every incumbent judge on the ballot.
Still, the event had its consolation. When I got home, I found my wife sitting in her rocking chair doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. I got to tell her my story, a story I am sure I will be telling the rest of my life. She looked at me sympathetically and said, "Honey, you have built up some serious Karma for yourself!"
I wonder if she means good Karma or bad?