On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.
The county election officials had been out a few months before, sitting up in the cafeteria of my high school. This was the age of “Rock the Vote,” where MTV and a host of musical celebrities encouraged young people to register to vote and and engage in the democratic process.
My 18th birthday was March 10, and because it fell after the deadline to register to vote that year, I had thought I wouldn’t be eligible to vote until the general election in November. The nice lady explained that was not the case and so I returned with proper identification the next day and registered to vote.
On the day of the primary election, I reported to my polling place, the Jamestown Community Center, and I cast my vote. They used those old machines back then that you turned a little knob and then pulled a giant red lever to mark your ballot. I still find the small computerized screens in use today a bit strange after that first voting machine experience. The red button is quite as dramatic is throwing that huge lever.
I haven’t missed an election since that first one in 1996. During college, I kept my official address in Fentress County, because that was the local politics I followed and that I felt was most important to my future, though I could have registered to vote in my college town. This meant that I had to plan to drive home and cast my vote.
I don’t remember if we had an early voting period back then or not. I always preferred election day voting, even with the chance of long line. There’s something exciting about entering the polling place on election day, showing your ID and signing your name in the book.
It’s not that voting early isn’t exciting. Recalling the mass of people on the courthouse lawn during the early voting period in May, I can’t say there isn’t some excitement in the air. But it’s not the same.
Besides, if you vote early, it’s possible you might come across information or have a change of heart on a voting decision before the final day. But then it’s too late. How many of us have cast an early vote in the presidential primary, only to see that candidate bow out by the time the primary day rolls around? It’s not all that comforting to think your vote didn’t matter.
This year, though, I’m reconsidering my stance on early voting for a very good reason.
The 127 Corridor Sale, which follows U.S. Hwy. 127 690 miles from Addison, MI, to Gadsden, AL, is set for Aug. 7-10. Election day is Aug. 7. Hwy. 127 is a major artery of our road system in Cumberland County, and includes several polling places, including my own polling place, Homestead Baptist Church.
A 690-mile yard sale and the mess of traffic it brings is enough to make me reconsider my early voting stance. The convenience of running up the election office now through Aug. 2 and casting my vote in a number of important local races and the state primary election is very tempting. The ability to avoid the 127 traffic nightmare seals the deal for me.
Please, consider how the additional traffic on Hwy. 127 may affect your route to and from your polling place on Aug. 7. If you don’t want to deal with lines, if you’re planning to leave town to avoid the yard sale, whatever reason, please consider voting early. In this election, we voters will decide who will lead our county on the county commission and a number of county offices, including county mayor and sheriff. Many of us will also be choosing school board members. It’s an important election, and it’s important that we all take part and help choose those who will lead our community in the future.
The Cumberland County Election Office is at 2 S. Main St, in the Milo Lemart building across from the Cumberland County Courthouse. Early voting is offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon through Aug. 2.
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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at email@example.com.