Tonawanda News

Columns

November 8, 2012

KEPPELER: Participating in our grand experiment

Tonawanda News — I stood outside North Tonawanda City Hall before the sun rose Tuesday, shivering a little, checking the sky for signs of dawn. I’d left the house before my husband or even my kids were awake that morning, fueled by coffee and already energized by the historic nature of the day.

I wanted to see, on this hard-fought Election Day 2012, who would be there as the polls opened. Would there be lines? Would people be serious? Excited? Civil? Grumpy? This one seemed unlike any other of the nine presidential elections I’ve lived through ... nastier, more divisive, each side seemingly more inexplicable to the other. What would the atmosphere be like?

Inside, the election inspectors, including Judy Niemiec, prepared for the onslaught. Niemiec, who’s been serving as an inspector for three years now, said there’s been a lot to learn with the electronic voting machines and other changes.

“That’s why the four of us work together as a team,” she said. “But we’re ready. We’re ready.”

Sometimes I think the election inspectors, arrayed in their schools and churches and community buildings across Western New York and the United States as a whole, are my heroes. Long hours, a thankless job and constant new things to learn ... yup. Heroes.

The first person waiting to vote at City Hall was Jim Chiodo, a Korean War veteran. A morning person, he said that he’s often the first voter in line on Election Day.

“It’s my patriotic duty to do,” he said, “and I’m going to do it.”

From there, the influx was steady. Sheryl Fleming stopped by to vote before going to work.

“It’s going to be so close this year, and everybody’s vote is going to count,” she said. “I thought there would be lines already.”

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