Sunday, November 05, 2006

Absentee Voting, Kettler's Ice, Friday Dinner

Communal Voting

I stood before the computer screen, black walls shielding my votes from other people in the small room, an alcove really, and cast my ballots on Friday. I’m going to be at work for the vast majority of the day Tuesday, so I took advantage of
Virginia’s in-person absentee voting.

The alcove on the third floor of the county government building (Courthouse Plaza #1, 2100 Clarendon Blvd.), held four computer voting stations of the same type as will be set-up at precincts all over the county on Tuesday. Two of them were already in use when I stepped into the room.

I had followed the signs through the building to Suite 320, where red-white-and-blue signs reading
Poling Place
Vote Here
Centro de Votacion
Vote Aqui
hung from a partially removed ceiling. The whole building is under massive renovation, and some handrails and furniture on the third floor were covered in a very light construction dust.

When I had signed-in to receive my in-person ballot, Donna Patterson, told me, “There’s been a lot of excitement.” She’s the deputy registrar for the
Electoral Board of Arlington County. “This year has gotten everyone excited,” she said, given all the media attention on potential problems and states with more lenient absentee and early voting laws.

“We want people to vote. That’s our thing,” she said, adding that it was unfortunate it takes media hype and fear to get people active sometimes.

In Virginia, people can’t really vote early, but only in-person absentee, as I did. This means that I
needed a reason that I wouldn’t be able to vote on Tuesday, something Ms. Patterson admitted the Electoral Board is unable to check, and they must rely on the honesty of people. But with that reason (I would be at work and/or out of the county for 11 of the 13 hours Tuesday that the polls are open), a photo ID and my social security number, I was allowed to vote before Tuesday.

This was the first time voting absentee for me (being young and generally stupid years ago in college, I just didn’t vote when I should have voted absentee), and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Part of that is that I wasn’t sure if I qualified to vote absentee or if I’d missed a deadline, and the other part, I suppose, was that given the news about how many people are doing what I’m doing, I half expected the process to be slow.

But it wasn’t slow at all; in fact, it was rather painless, and in the end, I got to wear the sticker that said “I made freedom count. I voted absentee.”

A young man who cast his votes at the same time as I did said he’d been in line for two-and-a-half-hours last year during the Kaine/Kilgore governor’s race. He was glad not to have to do that again since he said he’d be on a business trip Tuesday.

“I’ll let my wife do it,” he said, laughing a little.

Two-and-a-half-hours is too long to stand in line to vote, but I think I’ll miss the wait a little on Tuesday. Standing and waiting in line to exercise your franchise makes you realize it means something.

I’ll miss the friendly chatter with the strangers in the line next to me. I often see friends from the neighborhood and we say hello. Part of the importance of voting is the shared experience of it. When we’re standing in line to vote, we have a chance to see America as more than its borders or its people, but as a communion of sorts. We stand because we believe in the ideal of America and that voting is the single best way to come together and express that.

Although my vote will count just as equally, voting in-person absentee had all the gravitas and kindred spirit of a $40 ATM withdrawal.


Hey, That Doesn’t Say Donuts!

You can imagine my disappointment last Wednesday, when I learned the Arlington Ice Skating Center will be called the
Kettler Capitals Iceplex, after the owner of KSI, a huge regional developer, and not the Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Icing Rink, as I’d hoped.


Still, I have to wish them luck with the endeavor, and we hope to be on the ice soon.


The Friday Evening Meal—with a nod toward community papers of yore.

Greg and Stephanie DiNapoli and their children of Alexandria broke bread with the Arlington Thurstons on Friday night. A meal prepared by Steve Thurston of undercooked steak, too-little squash, a dry tossed salad, and crackers and cheese was preceded by a “too-apply” apple-and-pumpkin soup, which was also, perhaps, a little cold, Mr. Thurston reported.

The four adults drank wine or beer while three of their children played, racing around the Thurston’s living room. The fourth child, three-week-old Alexandra DiNapoli, rested on the shoulder of mom or dad. The discussion was lively and intellectual, centering around subjects of rearing children, the impending elections and what each of them did for a living. It was the first time the Thurstons hosted the DiNapolis and all agreed it should not be the last. A good time was had by all.

Oh my word, could have come straight out of my hometown newspaper, "The Enterprise-Bulletin." I almost feel as though I should send it home for my parents & extended family to read. As for the comments on the food, it was all actually quite good, indeed it should not be the last time the DiNapoli and Thurston families dine together.

Stephanie DiNapoli

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