Elections remind me of ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Each season is billed as the “most dramatic ever.”
And sure enough, a fiercely contested election in a global pandemic is, of course, the “most dramatic ever.” For me, it’s also my first chance to vote for a president. I knew it would be memorable, but it took on more urgency when I was quarantined three weeks before Election Day.
That foiled my voting plans. Until Oct. 31, the last day of early voting, I would not be allowed to enter the polls. If I contracted the coronavirus myself, my quarantine could extend through Nov. 3, Election Day.
I did not want to take a risk with a mail-in ballot arriving in time. The solution: vote early, but do it curbside. According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, voters are eligible to vote from their car due to age or disability. You also qualify if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are at risk of getting it.
So last Wednesday afternoon, my roommate drove us to the Karsh Alumni & Visitors Center at Duke, one of 14 early voting locations in Durham County.
We pulled up to the “curbside voting here” sign and were greeted by Kate, a poll worker who wore a fluorescent yellow jacket and a blue cloth mask.
I sat in the passenger seat as Kate asked why we would like to vote curbside and explained that we would have to sign an affidavit asserting that we could not go inside.
“I do solemnly swear or affirm that I am a registered voter in precinct 3…that because of age or physical disability I am unable to enter the voting place to vote in person without physical assistance…” it began.
We verbally agreed. Kate then took our names and went inside to print a document that certified our name and address, and bring out our ballots.
She returned moments later with both documents in a purple plastic sleeve.
She then explained the application and ballot – sign here and here, read through all contests and fill in the bubbles, flip the ballot over and do the same on the other side.
We each checked our name and address again, and signed the affidavit.
And so I sat in the passenger seat of my roommate’s car with my mask on and voted in my first presidential election.
Kate stood off to the side of the car while we filled out the ballots. When we finished, we waved to her to collect them. Unlike typical in-person voting, we could not feed our ballots into the tabulator machine ourselves. We’d have to trust that Kate would take care of that.
Our reward was the same as other early voters: a metallic retractable Board of Elections “I voted in the 2020 election! ”pen) and the delightfully Durham “No Bull, I Voted” sticker. The whole process took 32 minutes.
It wasn’t the most dramatic election ever, but it was very much on brand with the surprises of 2020.
Reporter Michaela Towfighi talks with an elections worker at the early voting site at the Karsh Alumni & Visitors Center at Duke. Photo by Henry Haggart | The 9th Street Journal