On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, (better known as Voting Day in Limestone County,) I had one of the most confusing, and for a little bit, miserably uncomfortable moments in my life. And, for my part, I’d rather not relive it, other than I feel duty bound to do so to let the readers of Athens Now know once again what a blessing it is to live where we do, and who it is that is looking out for our freedoms.
Tuesday morning began well enough—it was going to be “a day,” as the week we go to print always is. I zoomed up to Johnson Elementary School to cast my vote in the run-off, and could not find the candidate of my choice on the ballot.
“That’s weird, I remember voting for him in the primary,” I thought to myself, and mentioned it to the volunteer staff there at the polls. There were signs for this individual in the driveway, as well as in our neighborhood, so it wasn’t completely strange for me to expect to be able to cast my vote in what had turned out to be a tight race in a district that had been reconfigured.
Then I went to the Chamber of Commerce breakfast and mentioned my dismay to Mayor Marks, who asked me to check it out and get back to him. I went to the Courthouse Annex, and was given the most thorough and respectful treatment regarding my concern. It wasn’t that I thought there was mischief afoot, like there might be if we lived in Chicago, I just thought perhaps a mistake had been made.
I already knew from past conversations that Probate Judge Charles Woodruff felt making sure elections are clean and secure countywide was tantamount to a sacred charge, and I hoped to get a moment with him. However, he was out with Sheriff Blakely inspecting all 24 polling locations, and making sure all was well. Then I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Bobbi Bailey, who works there in the Probate Office.
You know what she did? She listened, and then showed me the records, the ballot template, took me across the hall to see where the extra, unused ones were stored, and carefully, respectfully, kindly explained the process. I could not be more pleased with her thorough care of me as I became increasingly uneasy with seeing in my mind’s eye a memory that was apparently inaccurate.
Then she did the unthinkable: She offered to take me in her car to where the ballots are stored, and while we would not be able to touch a box that was sealed, she knew there would be an actual blank ballot from the June 3rd primary that I could look at for myself. She assured me that she had time, and wanted more than anything to see to it that my question was answered. We went inside, and there it was, seeming proof positive that I was losing my ever lovin’ mind. My candidate of choice was nowhere to be found on the previous ballot, either.
On our way back to the Courthouse Annex I told her why voting was so important to me, and that it hadn’t always been. Being in Iraq for all 3 elections, being around people who were willing to die in order to have the privilege of casting their vote, and living amongst people who had endured some of the worst tyranny in the history of mankind changed me. She told me with sadness, “We are only expecting about 5% of eligible voters to turn out today.”
I thanked her profusely for going the extra mile with me, assured her again that I never suspected that anything untoward had occurred, and went out to my car to shed a few tears and deal with my fears by talking to the One who made me and who knew exactly what was going on. For a few moments I wondered if I should still write for living, seeing as being able to accurately record events kind of “went with the territory.” There had been Alzheimer’s in our family, with tragic results. Now that I was 60, was I headed in the same direction, despite my best efforts to eat clean and take care of myself?
And then, the answer came. What I was remembering was the sample ballot that had been mailed out, and had everybody, all across Limestone County on it. I zipped back up to the Courthouse and said, “I promise I am not stalking you! Could it be that I am thinking of the sample ballot?” Bobbi’s eyes lit up with the possibility, and she went and checked. Sure enough, mystery solved. I thanked her again, heaving a sheepish sigh of relief, and a prayer of deep gratitude.
However, what topped it off was the next day when Judge Woodruff himself called to make sure that I was fully satisfied with the outcome, and that all my questions had been answered. With chagrin I told him my story and said, “It felt like my cheese had dun slid off my cracker,” and his quick reply was, “Well, Ali, it’s been hot. Maybe it just melted a little bit.”