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Memories of Elections Past

Weekly Reader has announced the results of their presidential election poll. For those of you unfamiliar with this, its a poll they do every four years of the nation's schoolchildren to involve them in the process and get them interested in voting. It's actually predicted the results of 12 of the last 13 presidential elections.

Reading about their poll reminded me that I too participated in the Weekly Reader poll when I was a kid. My first experience with democracy that I can recall was "voting" in the Ford-Carter election of 1976. My class ended up going for Carter by a vote of 13-7, and when Carter won the presidency, I assumed that my class had elected him.

Four years later, I remember being very surprised when Reagan won. Many of my fellow students and I wandered the halls and stairwells of the school on the day after Election Day, asking if anyone at all knew someone who had voted for Reagan. I was still too young to consider the fact that just because I knew of no one who voted for Reagan didn't mean that no one had. (Growing up in New York City does tend to give one a skewed view of how the country is voting as a whole.)

What I remember most about the Reagan-Mondale match-up was the electoral map showing Mondale with only Minnesota and Washington, D.C. colored in for him. If I recall correctly, the channel I was watching had colored in Reagan's states blue and Mondale's red, the reverse of what the networks tend to do now.

The first election I was able to vote in for real was the Dukakis-Bush election. I will always feel proud of how I voted in that election.

A final thought, somewhat personal.

I remember how, when I was little, Mom let my brothers and me into the voting booth with her. The booth had small levers that put an X next to the names of the candidates, and a big red lever that you pulled when you were finished which went KA-CHUNK, cleared the X's, and opened the curtain for the next voter. Mom told me to keep her vote secret; years later, she told me that as a little boy, my uncle had gone into the booth with my grandmother during the Eisenhower election and returned home to inform my grandfather that "Mommy likes Ike!" As my grandfather was a Democratic ward organizer, and my uncle blurted this out in front of some of his fellow Democrats, it was an embarrassing situation for all involved.

In 2004, Mom voted in a presidential election for what turned out to be the last time. And by an odd quirk of fate, I was there with her, and she let me accompany her into the voting booth so I could help her with the levers.

Next week: no levers, no booths. A bubble sheet and scanning machine.

Comments

Talking of skewed samples: I was in Boston (actually, visiting friends in Wellesley) during the run-up to the Dukakis-Bush election, and went to a Phil Ochs song night held (in a school hall, I think) there. Someone sang Love Me, I'm a Liberal, which got a big laugh - and there can't have been many audiences in the country whose problem with Dukakis being perceived as a liberal was that liberalism is not enough!
That matches a lot of my memories as well. I was a total grade-school Carter groupie. I followed his campaign religiously, and my mom even bought me two campaign books of his. I have no idea what came of them. They might be worth something today...well, if they hadn't been well-loved by a six-year-old.
I remember going to a Mondale/Ferraro rally. It was a few days after I started first grade. I remember a stadium full of people and that I was allowed to jump up and down and yell! I remember what I yelled: "Ronald Reagan is no good/Send him back to Hollywood!" ...Though I also remember that I had no idea who this Reagan guy was, or what sort of place Hollywood was -- it sounded like some fictional place to me.
You just brought back a memory. Because Ferraro was from Queens, Mondale-Ferraro kicked off their national campaign a few blocks from my house. I remember going to see it. There were huge crowds cheering them on, and across Queens Blvd., a line of protesters standing with anti-abortion signs. The electricity in the air was palpable, but the news media only showed a few clips of Mondale and Ferraro speaking from the lectern, and the crowds appeared not at all.
To date myself, the one I remember from elementary school was Nixon v. McGovern. I can't quite remember who won in our class but I do know that Weekly Reader results usually do represent how the election does turn out. I'm pretty sure that I voted for McGovern then (as a kid, I mean).

My folks believed/believe very strongly on the right to keep their vote private and would never let me know who they voted for. While this was difficult as a child when others claimed to know who their parents wanted, it definitely made it's impression on me that this was an important right.
my mom let me do the same thing! I of course had to keep it a secret. I felt so grown-up when I went into the booth with her. You just triggered a wonderful memory :)
I remember the cafeteria being closed on the day of the elections, because the one polling place in my smallish town was in the K-8 school. I loved turning the handle and seeing the number change.

It confused me to no end when I moved here, and the first election walked down the street a couple of blocks to the high school... to find out that my polling place was a hospital. Too strange.
Next week: no levers, no booths. A bubble sheet and scanning machine.

That's the saddest part...
Ah, but if they told us which election they got wrong, the data would be easier to investigate.

Yes, I, too, went into the polling booth with my mother. But we kept that up as I became more politically savvy, and she paid a little less attention, letting me "help" her vote. This is a sad year for us, too, because Mom's on a vacation, so she already voted via absentee ballot.

I, however, will still get to enjoy the "ka-chunk". But the thrill I don't get is that in my neighborhood, they hook the curtains closed so that the big lever doesn't also open and close the curtain. I think that's a shame, but it's a minor annoyance compared to the other stunts my polling place has pulled in the past.
Newsflash! Youth Vote Goes For Obama!

Oh wait...
I went into the polling booth with my mom when she voted in the Reagan vs Mondale election in 1984. At that point, Brookline still had levers and curtains.
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