Patience plus pizza and tunes at the polls

Yesterday our church building again served as a polling location and was full of our Clintonville neighbors.  Really full.  When I arrived in the morning the voting area in the fellowship hall was overflowing into a line that came down the stairs into the foyer and curved back to the doors of the sanctuary.  That’s the shortest the line was all day.  Staff and poll workers couldn’t remember it ever being busier.  When I left at 5:00, the line was out the door, curving into the parking lot, extending all the way to the rain barrel by the alley, about a two-hour wait.

At home I received a call from Dan Clark, Director of Faith in Public Life Ohio and an organizer of clergy on call to serve as peacekeepers at the polls.  He noted reports that our church had one of the longest lines in Franklin County and encouraged me to return to be present with folks while they waited.  Thinking some live music might liven people’s spirits I gave Phil Hart a call who, unbeknownst to me, had recently talked with the location supervisor at CMC about bringing people inside the sanctuary to wait more comfortably.  Phil and Steve Rolfe had already been planning to practice some music that evening, so it was a serendipitous convergence of circumstances.

When I arrived back at the church two tables had been set up in the foyer and someone had ordered pizzas for voters to enjoy while waiting.  I tapped into my own culinary skills, grabbed some cups, and filled some pitchers with water to add to the spread.  Soon another neighbor was ordering additional pizza to supplement the dwindling supply.

The majority of those waiting were seated in the sanctuary.  The poll workers had created a system for rows to be dismissed in the order they arrived.  Phil and Steve set up shop in front of the platform and were in their element with a captive audience, playing nonreligious tunes with lyrics partial only to civility and neighborliness.  There was occasional applause and some laughter.

As each row was dismissed, folks would join the line in the foyer and help themselves to pizza on their way up to the fellowship hall.

When the sanctuary was nearly empty, another order of pizza arrived from a third pizza location, over 20 boxes for the evening. 

There were still people waiting in the foyer when I had to leave to pick up a daughter from an event.  The place was a bit of a mess with empty pizza boxes, used cups, and a day’s worth of foot traffic treading in shreds of autumn.

When I arrived back this morning everything had been cleaned up and put away.  The printout results posted on the front door noted that the poll closed at 9:02pm, staying open well past 7:30 to accommodate all voters who came before that time.  I don’t know how it compares with past years, but there were 1125 total voters, well over one vote per minute throughout the day.

That’s the news from here for now.  Thanks to the 15 poll workers who volunteered their time to keep things running smoothly.  Thanks to the neighbors and musicians who gave a little extra to enrich the experience.  And thanks to this congregation for opening the building as a community space.