November 3, 2020–Election Day in the United States of America

Have you voted? In rural America, there is plenty of time to get to the polls (unless you voted early). In heavily populated areas, the wait time may be extensive. And in Salt Lake City, you vote in your car–first you queue to collect your ballot, then you drive to a spot in the parking lot to fill out your ballot, finally you drive by a drop-in box to deposit your ballot.

I voted in person at our Senior Center. Very short line. They scanned the bar code on my driver’s license. They asked my name and address. I signed the computer screen with a stylus to ensure it was me. They printed me a ballot identified by my election precinct. I was given a new black pen to fill in the dots. Then my ballot was inserted into the verification machine. And I got an “I voted” sticker. In and out in 25 minutes.

My stylus signature does not resemble my written signature; however, everything else matches–name, address, voting precinct, driver’s license–it matches. Voting in my own precinct in the past, the judges knew me. I had to sign the registration book. After many years of voting in the same precinct my signatures could be matched over the years.

Now we are in the electronic age. Many legal signatures are electronic and only certified to be authentic–matching a written signature is no longer required.

Secret ballot is a thing of the past as well. The paper ballot inserted into the machine did not identify my political party. My matched record did. And the paper ballot sent to me by mail, which I surrendered to the election personnel, did note the party. And of all the people in the voting area while I was there, I noticed that I was the only one to surrender a mail ballot.

Your ancestors did not know voting booths or secret ballots or party affiliation or legal identities. White males only, over age 2i, property owners (the dollar value of the property varied from time to time by law). And sex and color/race were original obstacles for many years–added by Constitutional Amendments. Today’s election in Utah, a Constitutional Amendment was proposed to change gender identification on voter’s registrations– written specifically.

Your ancestors showed up in person at the voting site, where they were plied with bribes, drink, treats, and often, threats. The voting lists put the candidates’ names at the top of the columns for each position. Voters wrote their own names in the appropriate columns–for all the world to see. And these lists were public records then, and still are. They provide much useful and sometimes essential information for genealogists!

Where censuses are missing and other local records have been lost, to find a voter’s list printed in a newspaper or county history is invaluable! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Now we wait, as your ancestors sometimes had to, for the results–up to how many days do we wait for the election to be certified? Who knows? Neither did your ancestors. Even the Founding Fathers of this great country had to wait–and the wait was not always peaceful!  Say your prayers tonight…

PPS. Happy Birthday Mother.


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