I Voted Today, Amongst Grim Austin Faces

Today between placing a lockbox on a property and picking my daughter up from school, I had about 75 minutes to kill and no productive way to use that time, until I realized I was driving past the Randalls at Brodie and Slaughter Ln. in Southwest Austin. This, I had heard, is the early voting location for my precinct, and I needed more oatmeal, so I pulled in to Randalls.

Overall, this was a good, cheerful day for me. Standing in the voter line threw a wet blanket on it though. 30 minutes of sharing space with grim faced, unsociable people was a real downer. This line would not be mistaken for a festive line of people waiting to be let in to a ZZ-Top concert, or the gleeful bunch of iPhone “early adopters” you may have seen on the news last summer.

Nope, these are arms folded, blank stare, don’t-talk-to-me-I’m-brooding, line standers. I guess pleasant, cordial chit chat is off the table when engaged in the solemness of one’s civic duty. Had I been blindfolded and led to this line, I might have guessed I was standing amongst people waiting to pick caskets for their dead puppies. I considered making eye contact with someone, maybe throwing one of those wry “what’s up?” smiles toward someone, but I dared not, as the pall of depressed hanging faces thus deterred me.

I’ve never voted early, before now. I’ve always waited until actual voting day. Perhaps my line at Randalls was unrepresentative of most. After all, 3:15PM is nap time and we all feel a bit sluggish about then, I’m sure. But I feel like I missed out on the buzz and vibe one experiences when standing in the much longer and more energetic voting lines I’ve encountered in the past on voting day. There was no frenzy, no gaggle of sign holders some distance from the driveway entrance. No feeling of, “today’s the big day”. Instead, the feeling was more like the soft thud of your rocky road triple scoop landing on your shoe.

Also, in my prudent and efficient use of dead time, I failed to consider that in the past, my vote coincided with the end of the constant blather and rhetoric we all endure at this time every 4 years. All the lying and misinformation, from all sides. It’s almost as if my previous acts of voting also represented a loud and clear “now, Shut UP!” to all the pundits, news reporters, politicians and radio talk show hosts. I didn’t realize that voting early would deprive me of the symbolic finality that a voting-day vote provides. Now, not only have I squandered the heretofore unappreciated voting day formality, I have to listen to all of the election noise for 8 days beyond my vote.

Can I get a do over?

So, my message is, don’t vote early, or if you do, take some happy friends along so you might better endure the torture of standing amongst the emotionless, stoic androids otherwise known as Austin early voters.

14 thoughts on “I Voted Today, Amongst Grim Austin Faces”

  1. I think you had a one-off experience. I always vote early and I have never experienced such grimness. Most of the people in line have always been glad to be there, and the election workers are always helpful and glad to see you.

    And especially for this election, people are ecstatic to be voting, finally. As we walked out of the mega-voting center last Monday evening, the woman ahead of us SKIPPED to her car and made a final “Woohoo!” as she opened the car door.

  2. Wow, when I voted early in the 2004 election, everyone was chatting, I learned all about the triplet nieces of the women in front of me! Of course, this was in south Austin, in the parking lot of the Congress HEB, and there is never a dull (or grim) moment there!!

  3. I work at UT so I usually vote early there (the FAC, aka the old undergraduate library). I’ve seen frequent lines this year but they seem to move quickly, and everyone looks quite energized, not “emotionless and stoic.”

    When I voted at the FAC in the primaries, a group of frat brothers was in a far corner of the lobby serenading some young ladies and handing them roses. And the FAC borders the West Mall where people are always out waving political signs and reminding you that there are still Ron Paul supporters alive and kicking. Definitely more fun than voting near my house on Election Day! So not all polling places are as glum as the Randalls.

  4. Interestingly, there was almost no line at the same Randalls on Saturday afternoon around noon.

    As for the further election noise, just think: after Friday, we’ll be inundated with both election and Christmas commercials for four days.

  5. I have not been this un-excited about our Presidential options since Clinton/Gore vs Dole/Kemp. At least the previous election had Ross Perot to entertain us. He kept the other two on their toes as well.
    Perhaps your voting brethren were not looking forward to holding their nose and choosing the lesser of two evils. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… today I will vote for this Schmoe.
    Just think – the so-called experts are still saying that this election is in the hands of those who do not normally vote, and those who, at this stage of the game, have yet to make up their minds.
    Now I’m depressed – maybe I’ll get in line to early vote.

  6. Early voting is great! You can go to any polling location. The lines in theory are shorter than they will be on election day. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of early voting. Usually there is no line. Depending on the election, the workers are shocked that we’re walking up to vote, not just walk past to shop.

    I highly encourage people to vote early!! Not every state will let you so easily like Texas will.

    This year, my husband will be putting on his highly patriotic votin’ hat and I’ll put on my patriotic party tiara, and we’ll be heading to early voting either on foot or by bike. Perhaps I”ll encourage a neighbor to come along with us like the City Council run-off election this year. Great time to catch up with folks and enjoy your neighborhood!!

  7. To reiterate Julia, you can early vote anywhere in your county of residence. The people were probably glum because you vote early to not stand in line.

  8. Steve, I voted early in the same location about 9:30 AM Tuesday and couldn’t have had a more different experience. Everybody seemed at least content if not happy about being there. Of course, there was no line at that hour…I was in and out in 3 minutes.

    I hope no one takes your “don’t vote early” comment seriously, or you might best prepare for some complaints! All indications are that turnout is going to overwhelm some polling stations Tuesday and some people will stand in line for hours to vote.

  9. It’s permissible to vote early at any polling place; on Election Day, however, a person must vote at the precinct polling place on the voter card. I have never seen grim faces at any polling place, whether early or on The Day itself. Occasionally, there’s a GOP election judge who’s not all smiles, but this *is* Travis County, after all.

  10. I voted today at the same location. It was a festive occasion, much different than Steve’s experience (sorry hubby).

    Maybe because it is Halloween and many people were in costume and/or wearing their festive Halloween jewelry and T-shirts. Up ahead I saw Indiana Jones waiting in line with a snake wrapped around his leg, lasso in hand and a tarantula crawling up his back. The guy in front of me was a “first time voter” and received large applause from everyone as one of the volunteers checking him in announced “first time voter”.

    I chatted with people in line and a lot of them were like me, squeezing in the early vote at the last minute before picking up their kids at school. This was an overall positive experience for me and I will recommend early voting on Halloween every year!!!

  11. I voted on halloween too (up north) and it was a lot of fun. The wait was about 30 minutes but we had driven by 4 times to early vote that week and the line was always too long.

    People in line were dressed up and having fun and randalls was passing around free food


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