Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Make your way to the polls today


I know a place where you can go today to keep warm.

This is a nice place. It opens at 6:30 a.m. Closes at 7:30 p.m.

It's an Ohio polling place.

For the uninitiated, that's where you go to vote on Election Day. That's today.

Don't worry if you haven't been there for a while. Poll workers always appreciate your business.

They'll welcome you by name. After you've given it to them.

When it comes to names, a polling place is like Cheers. Only better.

At that fictional place, everybody knows your name.

At a polling place, everybody wants to know your name.

Then, they ask for your autograph. In a big book. Crammed with other autographs. They don't do that at Cheers.

Unlike Cheers, and real-life watering holes, a polling place won't cost you a thing.

They give you the ballot. And, an "I Voted Today" sticker.

You're free to vote for any candidate, any issue. You vote for free to keep the nation free. Such a deal.

Making history

Voting is such a good deal more people should take advantage of it.

A recent nationwide Gannett News Service poll found that only 38 percent of people 18-30 are "very likely" to vote today compared with 73 percent of those over 30.

The 38 and 73 percenters know a good deal.

Their opposite numbers, people unlikely to darken a polling place's door, don't know what they're missing.

There are no video games at polling places, no unlimited Internet access, no coffee bar, no drive-through, nobody asking, "Want fries with that?"

Still, they are places of action, places where history is being made. Quietly. Usually in front of three or four poll workers sitting at a folding table.

You can bet one of the workers will be wearing red, white and blue. All of them will be taking the right to vote very seriously.

They know that thousands have fought and died so we can cast a ballot. And do it without fear and with freedom of choice. No one points a gun to your head and snarls, "Vote for Saddam or die."

By numbers

Thoughts about Election Day filled my head on Halloween night. I had plenty of time to think. Rush-hour traffic was going nowhere fast.

The mind wanders while spending 20 minutes on an exit ramp off Interstate 74. The highway could just as easily have been 71, 75, 275 or 471. Most interstate ramps get clogged at that hour.

At the end of the ramp, a yard sign promoted Issue 7. The sign sported the outline of a light-rail train. A man stood nearby, pointing at the sign and yelling, "Let's get moving."

Give me a ballot right now, I seethed. Any escape route from gridlock gets my vote. Even if it raises the sales tax.

Other drivers stuck on the same ramp, I'm sure, would have disagreed. No tax increase. No buses or light rail rumbling through their neighborhoods.

That's their right. It's a free country. Just make sure you keep it that way. Vote.

Issues and candidates' races can turn a polling place into a den of rewards and revenge.

With Issue 7 you can reward yourself with better transportation. Or by not raising taxes.

Want revenge for those imbecilic TV ads you've endured since May?

Stick it to the candidate whose politics and commercials annoy you the most. Vote for the opposition.

Voting doesn't take long. Five, 10 minutes, tops.

The feeling of power that comes from making a difference lasts much longer. Makes you want to be a regular and come back next year for another round at the polling place.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.