A rural-Missouri progressive reflects on 2012 voters & victories

Like you, I’m still digesting the 2012 election results and trying to make sense of what happened. I worked at a polling station out here in rural Franklin County, Missouri, where the residents lean Republican regardless of what the issue is or who is running for office. I call them “chronically uninformed but happy with themselves voters.” They know they are right and God’s on their side. And please don’t mess up their day with facts.

As an election judge, my job is to make voting as easy as possible for ALL voters.  We don’t discuss politics and no one sees the ballots that they push into the opti-scan machines. There was only one man who gave away his “secret” vote when he said “Come on, Mitt” as he slipped his ballot into the scanner. I, of course, smiled, gave him a sticker and thanked him for voting. As he left in his heavy duty overalls on his way to work, I couldn’t help but think that life for him would definitely NOT be better under a Romney administration.

The only really boisterous voter we had was a woman with a Florida driver’s license and her Florida voter’s card who insisted that she be able to vote in Missouri since she “used to live here” and now has moved back. I asked her if she had registered in MO since I couldn’t find her name in our database. NO, she said. She said she read online and called an 800 number and someone told her all she needed to vote was proof of where she lived. She brought a utility bill for that purpose. I explained to her that the person she spoke with must have assumed she was registered in MISSOURI, not Florida, when she was given that information. Her response, in a loud voice, was “But I’m a registered Republican in Florida and an American citizen. I should be able to vote.” Of course I couldn’t do anything for her even if she said she had been a registered Democrat in Florida, but her haughty behavior certainly didn’t help either. I was thinking this was SO typical of Republicans. “But I’m SO SPECIAL, who are you to get in my way?”

I finally got her on the phone with the county clerk who told her basically the same thing I had told her. You have to be a registered voter in Missouri to vote in Missouri. She left, thank goodness, and didn’t come back.

Voting in these rural precincts is kind of like a beef and noodles church dinner.  Most of the people coming and going know someone else coming and going. We get all the latest news of whose husband died recently, who had hip surgery (which is not going well) and who won’t be able to make it to the Ladies Aid Turkey Dinner. If Norman Rockwell were alive, he’d be busy sketching these scenes of community and comfort.

My favorite voters are the first-timers. I get the silly shivers when they tell me they are nervous about voting and afraid they’ll screw up. Actually, their young ears and eyes are much better than the majority of voters in our precinct, so they make fewer mistakes. I wish I had thought to bring a little momento to give them in honor of their special day. But I did thank them and let them know the future of the country depends on them.

The most common mistake (other than making big check marks instead of filling in the bubble next to the names,) was misreading the instructions for the presidential race. It said to vote for “one pair” meaning president and vice-president. Several people voted for two pairs thinking they were to pick a pair of pairs (or a peck of peppers) I guess.  I was very understanding and gave them a clean ballot to start over. Sadly, one woman chose not to revote because her husband was hollering at her. Here was a little woman with her oxygen tube shuffling around the best she could, and her husband commanded her to “Go get in the car, woman!” I couldn’t help but ask him please not to holler at her, but he wasn’t impressed with my suggestion. I can only wonder what that poor woman endures at home.

I haven’t drawn many conclusions about the vote in Franklin County or Missouri yet, but the one thing that stands out is that Franklin County chose Romney (62.2% to 35%) but voted for McCaskill and Nixon by small margins. All the rest of the statewide races went to Republican candidates.

The Missouri tally was similar as far as Romney winning, but McCaskill and Nixon took their prizes by large margins. [Obama 44.3,Romney 53.9] [McCaskill 54.7,  Akin  39.2] [Nixon 54.7, Spence 42.5] Does this mean that there are some Republicans in Missouri who actually paid attention and knew how awful Akin and Spence are?  Of course Akin had the whole “legitimate rape” thing dragging him down. But, if Republicans were wise enough to see through Akin and Spence, why weren’t they able to figure out how dangerous Romney would be as president? A man who won’t show you his tax returns has something to hide, and it ain’t pretty.  End of story.

When I went to bed at midnight, it looked like Rex Sinquefeld’s boy wonder, Shane Schoeller was going to be in charge of our future elections as Secretary of State.  Hallelujah, he’s not. I could see us on the national news with stories like those in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and other places with Republican Secretaries of State making it harder for people to cast their ballots. Oh, great. Just what Missouri needs. As if having the lowest tobacco tax in the nation isn’t bad enough.  Jason Kander won the SOS office 48.8 to Schoeller’s 47.5. THANK YOU, Missouri voters for protecting what is left of our democratic system.

Clint Zweifel and Chris Koster were able to pull out victories too. Cole McNary’s name didn’t do him any good against Zweifel, and Koster trounced Ed Martin.  Maybe some of those super pac funded apparachiks will find other ways to make fools of themselves from now on.

As I’ve been writing this, the dark gray sky has turned to bright blue, and clumps of white clouds are peeking out from behind the big oak tree outside my window. Mother Nature certainly got our attention last week, so now maybe we’ll listen to her complaints about how we’re treating her. We have a Democratic president and a Democratic governor for another four years. No excuses. Saving our beautiful planet MUST become a top priority.

Onward, upward and FORWARD.

About Susan Cunningham:
Susan Cunningham is a retired teacher of American history. She lives near St. Louis, Missouri.