The 19th amendment stirs memories

Published 8:32 am Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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By:  Leila Case

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution that granted American women the right to vote, a right known as women’s suffrage that ended almost a century of protest, I am reminded of the first time I cast my vote and made my voice heard in a national general election. I can tell you I was so excited.

Of course, women’s right to vote as well as that of any U.S. citizen regardless of race or gender had been in force for decades when I reached 21, then the legal age to vote in Georgia. Today, it is 18 in Georgia and has been for years. I suppose lawmakers decided if you were old enough to have a driver’s license and buy alcoholic beverages it was okay to register to vote.

My first trip to the polls was in Athens, Georgia, where we lived at the time. I voted at the Clarke County Courthouse. Today polling places are located all over that county as they are here in Sumter County. At that time we voted on paper ballots, a widespread practice across the state. The ballots were large and unwieldly about the size of a newspaper page. Not only were the candidates for office listed, so were many important amendments.

Thankfully, voting machines are used today, which is a much more efficient method to arrive at an accurate vote count.

After signing in, the poll worker checked my name against the registered voter list and then handed me the mammoth ballot but where in kingdom could I sit down to mark the ballot? So I looked around the room and noticed voters sitting on wooden benches with their ballot hanging about three quarters over the bench. So awkward.

After finally casting my vote for the political contenders and wading through all the amendments I felt pretty proud about myself.

Several years later, I decided I wanted to work at the polls during the upcoming general election. Big mistake.

The year was 1968. The year Republican Richard Nixon defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace also was on the ballot as the candidate for the Independent American Party. And Clarke County was still using paper ballots.

I recall checking in at the precinct about 6 a.m., having no idea then I would be there a full 24 hours. From the time the polls opened at 7 a.m. until they closed at 7 p.m. there were long lines of citizens waiting to vote throughout the day. I certainly wasn’t bored. Shortly, after the polls closed, we had a short break before the counting began that continued through the wee hours of the next morning.

With three presidential candidates and a myriad of amendments the task was laborious. We carefully counted each ballot then placed them into neat stacks but the table was so narrow there was only room to place the Nixon and Humphrey ballots so Wallace ballots went on the floor.

Finally, after all ballots were accounted for and the numbers tallied we were allowed to leave the polling place. Hallelujah. I arrived home in time to have breakfast with my family and then went to bed and slept until noon when my husband woke me to say Nixon had won the election. By the time the 1972 general election rolled around Clarke County had voting machines but I sure didn’t want to work at the polls again.

This is another general election year. President Donald J. Trump (R) incumbent nominee faces former Vice President Joe Biden who is running on the Democratic Party ticket. I predict another big turnout at the polls.

If have not registered to vote in Georgia in the November 3 general election please do so by October 5. Let your voice be heard loud and clear.

Meanwhile, I have completed week two of “working out” at SW Georgia Fitness Center. Another pleased as punch feeling. Come join me.

Elsewhere, I’ve enjoyed seeing friends I haven’t seen for five or six months even though we must communicate through a facial mask. Some include Alice Argo and daughter, Christine Argo of Atlanta, former resident Lisa Bliss McMichael of Dublin, Warren Alford, Trina and Ed Shattles, Jerryl Pinell Sr., Carla Sullivan of Destin, Florida, Beth Nesmith, Dallas Nesmith, Ellen and Bill Hansford and daughter, Quinn Hansford, Terri Joiner and daughter Sydney Joiner, John and Gaye Hayes, Ricky and Jane Arnold, Beth Ragan, Lee and Faith Pinell, Kyle Crew of Birmingham, Everett Byrd, Carson and Marylyn Walker and the list goes on.

Meanwhile, stay healthy and take care of yourself. Mask up.