They started sprouting like new flowers more than a month ago; but unlike flowers and new grass, they’re strategically placed. You see them along roadsides and intersections, in front yards and on street corners, and really big specimens now loom over highways.
Yes, campaign season is here and with the inevitability of pollen and sneezing, here come the campaign signs. The primary election is May 8, and everybody will be reminded about that date until the big day arrives.
For people in the news business, the dawn of campaign season is the time when we notice voting machines being prepared for service. A few days ago, I was downstairs at the Mercer County Courthouse when I saw a man working on machines being set up outside the voter registration office.
For me at least, that was the real sign of an approaching election. It meant that the regular round of stories about polling places and who’s on the ballot were about to begin, too.
As usual, my first election story of the season centered around early voting. This year, early voting gets underway April 25 and continues until May 5.
Back when I was a little kid, the idea of going to the polls before an election was downright alien.
I can still remember going with mom and dad to one of the polling places in Charleston and going into a voting booth with dad, watching as he flicked those little levers and listening to the distinct click each vote produced.
Dad always told me not to tell how he voted, which was okay in the early days because I could hardly read and I wasn’t 100 percent sure what the heck was going on. What was important to me was the fact I didn’t have to go to school that day.
More than 50 years have gone by and those voting machines, which might still exist here and there, are borderline antiques. Now voting machines are electronic things out of Star Trek; however, I’d say the biggest change is the fact that we can vote early.
I still remember when technology was supposed to shorten the future workweek, but people are even busier now. We can get messages faster and respond faster, so doing even more work during even odder hours is possible.
That means there are more chances for work and life in general to interfere with any desire to head for the polls during one specific day. Voting needed to become more flexible.
With the early voting option, we have more chances to cast our ballots before or after work, during lunch, or even on a Saturday. More people are taking advantage of early voting. I know that in past elections, 25 to 30 percent of Mercer County’s early votes were cast early.
I usually cast my votes early because it’s more convenient for me, and I usually have to work during an election.
Early voting means I have one less thing to do on a very busy news day. I usually cast my early vote at the Mercer County Courthouse because it’s on my regular route to and from work.
With voter registration card ready, I go downstairs and get in line – if there is a line – get my ballot, wait for a vacant machine and take my turn.
I think the longest wait I’ve experienced was about 20 minutes or so. Then I’m done and out of there.
The only thing I miss from the old days are those curtains on the voting booths. Now the machines have screens to protect voter privacy, but I still miss that bit of secrecy and drama those curtains provided.
I even miss those little levers and that mechanical click you heard when you cast your votes. We can get some pretty interesting ring tones for our phones now, so why not reproduce that vintage click?
Remember to register if you want to cast any ballots at all. The last day to register if you want to vote on May 8 is April 17.
I’m okay since I voted during the last two elections, but if you didn’t vote recently, you might want to make sure you’re still registered.
Early voting offers a convenient way to participate in this busy age, so it wouldn’t hurt to take advantage of it.
Yes, there’s no phone voting app yet, but it’s still more convenient than voting in the older days when I was a kid who didn’t know what in the world was going on.
Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org