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Roger Truesdale: Voting in earlier times


Roger Truesdale



Like most of you, I voted a week or so ago. To be honest, I almost didn''t. 


I got home Tuesday mid-afternoon and settled in to the comfort of the air conditioner. Suddenly, that "forgotten to do something" alarm started beeping like a smoke detector in need of a new battery. I tried to ignore it. 


When I walked out at 5 p.m. to go to the polls, the late afternoon heat hit me like a furnace. I did a 180 and retreated back into the house -- calf rope -- heat, you win. Moments later, my conscience kicked into overdrive. In less than two minutes, I was in the car headed to the polls. 


I vote at the old Lee Middle School precinct. I parked in the Sunflower lot right across the street. Candidates and their supporters lined 18th Avenue. Their enthusiastic welcome made me glad I came. 


Voting machines confound me. It''s not just the "hanging chad" thing. I long for the good ole days of checking the box next to my guy or gal''s name, folding my ballot and dropping it in the box. Before these new gadgets, I knew that I had voted and didn''t need a sticker to remind me that I had. 




Early memories 


Two of my best friends'' father owned and published The Deer Creek Pilot, the weekly paper in Rolling Fork. Back in the day, on election night the Pilot office was a very popular place. My friends'' dad had a television set up, plus a bottle or two of Early Times stashed under his desk that was generously shared with his closest associates and advertisers. I remember all those men gathered around in the Pilot office enjoying a cocktail, smoking cigarettes and cigars and talking politics -- down-home Mississippi at its best. 


My friends and I were assigned the task of riding our bikes over to the courthouse where we would pick up the hourly tallies and deliver them back to the Pilot office. Their dad would place a long distance call to the Associated Press desk in Jackson and report Sharkey and Issaquena''s numbers -- a pretty big deal for 10-year-olds, looking back on it now. 


Back in those days everybody didn''t have a television, or telephone for that matter. Folks from all over the county would come into town and gather on the courthouse lawn. The election workers inside the courthouse sat around a huge table in the county clerk''s office and carefully counted the votes. A huge blackboard was set up on the courthouse steps and updated every 30 minutes or so with the vote tallies.  


I''m almost positive the views held by all those who showed up covered the entire spectrum of local and state politics. The most important local issues couldn''t have been more than keeping gravel on the roads so the school buses could run on time, holding down property tax and insuring that the bootleggers stayed in business. 


I remember hearing a lively discussion or two regarding those matters. Still, in the end it was good hard-working folks coming to town to see how their candidate faired -- and moreover, visit and catch up with friends they didn''t get to see all that often.  


Later on Tuesday evening, I kept checking the updates on The Dispatch''s website. If voting machines are that much more efficient, you couldn''t prove it by me. I turned in early at 9 p.m., not knowing who won what. As I was drifting off, I thought about how much fun we could of all had milling around the courthouse.  


I''m voting to go back to paper ballots.


Roger owns Bayou Management, Inc. and is also a semi-pro guitar player.


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