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Friday, November 07, 2008

Election: a look back, a look ahead

I was ready for the election long before the polls opened a week ago Tuesday.

Those like me, who were not undecided most likely had their choices nailed down many months ago.

Those who remained undecided up until Election Day however, most likely weren't helped by the extra time anyway.

Just as the Christmas shopping season seams to get longer and longer, so does the race for president.

This, the longest election campaign in history, took two full years. That means we're already less than two years away from the beginning of campaign 2012 -- if candidates can wait that long.

While the campaign for president topped the national conversation, the local conversation on Election Day provided poignant reminders of the unique character of our Democracy.

Here are a few highlights:

--First to vote
As voters waited in line for the polls to open at the La Grange town hall the morning of Nov. 4, a man arrived with an urgent plea.

He had brought his wife, who had just gone into labor that morning, and she wanted to vote before heading to the hospital.

He asked if they could jump ahead in line, and those waiting enthusiastically agreed, according to Eric Graff, who spent the day at the polls as an observer for the Republican Party.

The couple moved to the head of the line, and was the first in the door as the polls opened at 7 a.m.

They voted, then were back in their car and reportedly on their way to the hospital in West Allis.

No word yet if it was a boy or girl.

--Democracy is built on stages both large and small.
Voting went smoothly throughout Walworth County, including the polls in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewaters' Conner University Center,

The chief election inspector is responsible for overseeing the operation of the polling location, and has wide discretion on how to do his job, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

The election inspector at this polling place had selected a spot away from the voting booths for media to shoot photos.

When I arrived however, I asked about shooting from a different location, which sparked a discussion on the potential conflict between free access of the press and freedom of citizens to vote uninhibited.

We eventually agreed on a location where I could get the photograph that best told the story of that day, without disrupting the voting process.

I hope he didn't think I was bent on being difficult, but these are the battles on which or democracy remains strong.

Use or lose it, they say.

--Early voting
Every four years, the Walworth County Home and Community Education holds a mock election at the log cabin on the fairgrounds.

Typically the outcome is a pretty good indictor of where the election may be headed. Keep in mind that this year, the vote came before the economic meltdown of October.

This year, the vote totals were:

348 for McCain
174 for Obama
4 for Clinton
1 for God

--Our changing electorate
Every incumbent that ran in Walworth County was reelected, which is no surprise. A politician has to work pretty hard lose their job in Walworth County. It happens, but rarely.

John McCain was Walworth County's preference for president. That's no surprise either in this historically Republican County. But over the years, the gap between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed.

In fact, all four cities in the county -- Delavan, Elkhorn, Lake Geneva and Whitewater -- voted for Obama.

A lot will happen in the next four years, but rather than looking back, I think I'll get a jump on things and file this column under "Election 2012."

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