Small-Town Voting

by Siegfried Haug

“Name?” Shirley asks.

Shirley knows my name. We’ve been hanging out for years at various small-town functions: lunch at the Council for Aging, Greenwood Music Camp . . . today, though is voting-day as she flips through our list of registered voters. All eight pages of it, and she has a hard time with my last name. “H-A-W ?”

“No,” I say, “H-A-U.”

We do that every other year. In between we are strictly on a first name basis.


We are going through these steps as if walking in a religious procession. There is nothing of the silly rigamarole it could be. It feels like a larger-than-life ritual. It is voting day. Tuesday, November 6, 2018, a day of reckoning.

At 7 we drive up to Town Hall. It is drizzling, and there is still a parking spot by the library door. Fifteen minutes later, after a bit of post-ballot chatting and a doughnut, all 12 parking spaces are full, and people have to half-jog over from the general store. Shoulders hunched. Braving the rain.

There was a bit of a hold-up before my ballot could be cranked into the old strong-box. The red-head senior who has to ascertain name and address one more time also thinks she knows how to spell my name.

“No, Pam, it’s H-A-U-G.”

Flustered she flips pack and forth in the voters list, ruler poised to keep her lines straight.

“By the end of the day,” I say, “you’ll know your alphabet.” Pam gives me a wry smile. She was an English teacher not too far back.

And then there is Serious-John who cranks the ballots into the box.

“No,” He says. “The other way around.”

From year to year I forget which way around to feed the paper.

Daryl, our youngest cop, sits to the left of the voting machine and hands out stickers. “I VOTED.” He overheard the crack I made to Pam and allows for a minimalist smile. Maybe Pam was his teacher. Maybe young cops are not supposed to smile. Maybe he honors the collective gravitas.

A young woman, a teacher at Hingham, rushes back in and cuts the line: “I forgot my sticker! It’s for my colleagues and students,” she explains, teaching by example. I voted, did you?

This particular mid-term Tuesday has a different feel. The person we are voting on is not even on the ballot. It feels more like a cross-partisan, all-American effort to affirm common decency. We might not see eye to eye on tariffs, but we do know that taking children away from their mothers is wrong.

After decades of ambivalent rhetorical spins we are now back to basics. What a costly way down to what we all know to be true. I believe it might have been worth it.

""Siegfried Haug is the author of I WANT TO SLEEP, a workbook for insomniacs. A suspense novel, BAD SLEEP, will be published in early spring, 2019. Retired now from clinical work and teaching, he lives with his wife, a ceramic artist, in the foothills of the Berkshires. When warmth is hard to come by they migrate to Key West.

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