Ella’s diary entry for October 2, 1923, says:
Mark went to the Dr’s today. We all went + voted + then I went to the woman’s club, to the tea + reception. It has been a fine day + warmer the boys finished Clarence Faber’s Silo.
This was exactly three years after Ella and her daughter Elizabeth were (after decades of increasingly vocal campaigning) given the right to vote in all elections by the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
They “all went + voted.” This was before election days were changed to November – and it was still special enough that the “woman’s club” celebrated with a tea and reception. Possibly this was the Waterbury group of The League of Women Voters of Connecticut, an organization founded in 1920, but I can’t know for sure.
Tea and a reception. Because of the election. And it wasn’t even a presidential election year, or even Congressional one.
Connecticut’s 2014 election turnout was 55.6% statewide – but under 40% for the two Congressional districts that Waterbury is split between. That was a Congressional election year. 2012, on the other hand, saw a 73.89% turnout (but only 56% in Waterbury’s two districts), because it was a Presidential year.
Did anyone but the political parties serve tea and cookies? Maybe the LWV, where it still has chapters. (There aren’t all that many of them, now.)
I know, from experience as a poll worker for the last, what, ten years? that in non-presidential years and non-Congressional years, like this year, we’re lucky to see 30% turnout.
State and local governments control an immense amount of our lives! Tax rates – school boards – zoning regulations – budgets ranging from the immense to the tiny. Yet only 30% (or less) of the voters can be bothered to turn out!
In 1923, my random diarist, at age 70+, had probably been voting on school matters for quite a few years (in 1919, Connecticut was one of the states that allowed women to vote on school matters, because those were “womanly” enough matters to be “proper”).
But Ella didn’t give up voting once she had a say in national elections. Local matters were enough to bring her and her entire family out to vote.
Readers – if any of you are still with me – what are you going to be doing on November 3, 2015?
Apparently 70% or more of you won’t bother to vote. But I wish you would.
There was a time when the only citizens who could vote, at all, were white males who owned a certain amount of real estate.
Now, we’re all eligible. And a shocking number of us aren’t even registered.
I don’t want to hear excuses. Your life is affected by your elected representatives every day. Every hour. And you can’t be bothered to vote?
Do you think the politicians don’t know most of you don’t care enough? How do you think they’d react if 90% of us showed up and voted? Maybe they’d be inspired to listen to the middle instead of the extremes. Maybe you’d feel like you’d earned the right to call them up and complain when they do something you disagree with.
I’d also offer you tea and cookies, but I’ll be working at the polls from before dawn until after dark.
You could have your own election party, though!
Nothing’s stopping you but you.