We spend so much time talking about high-minded topics here that we don’t talk about basic concepts. I wanted to vote early. I’m having foot surgery this next week. It will put me on crutches for four to six weeks. I figured waiting in line was not the best situation for me. So, my wife and I went out to vote yesterday. We waited in line for five minutes. It probably actually took us longer to vote than it took us to wait and get checked in.
Lina Hidalgo took over the Harris County judge a couple of years ago when she defeated Ed Emmett in the 2018 midterm elections. It was a Democratic sweep as many people voted straight ticket. Emmett was well-respected and an old-fashioned kind of Republican. He worked well with Democratic mayors during hurricanes and was universally well-liked. We were sad to see him go.
Hidalgo is now 29 which means she was 27 at the time she took office. Many of us were understandably nervous. What had we done? Had the blue wave gone too far? Well, all one needs to do is look at how this round of early voting has gone to see that our fears were unfounded. Back in the good ole days, we could early vote locally at our library. The lines usually stretched over a hour. That was before the pandemic and before social distancing.
Hidalgo used some funds to open numerous early voting locations in each area. Instead of voting at the library, we had nearly a half dozen voter locations in the same area. Those voting locations have electronic scanners that will scan your driver’s license instead of having to thumb through a voter roll by hand. They give you what can best be described as a finger condom to put over your voting finger and an alcohol wipe to wipe down the unit after you vote. This streamlined the process and kept everyone safer.
Over 50,000 people voted in Harris County on the first day of early voting. I’m sure that over 100,000 people have done so up to this point. There have been few if any reports of long lines or issues with machines. That also means that fewer people will have to vote on election day. The fact that all of this helps offset the concerns of our governor making it harder to vote by mail shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
What is overwhelming at this point is that this is how good government works. Local officials (namely Hidalgo) put their heads together and developed a plan to get something done. The plan was well thought out and executed well. It has made a process easier that used to be difficult. Mind you, this process is easier for Republicans and Democrats. No one asks for your party affiliation when you walk through the door.
I’m sure Hidalgo is smart enough to know that making voting easier is a win for Democrats in the long run. The more people you can engage in the process the better it is for Democrats. Still, there are no guarantees that this is the case. Sometimes, when you energize the masses they end up voting for the other guy. A part of motivating people to vote is in convincing them that it won’t be too much of an inconvenience. We’ve all heard stories of people waiting six or seven hours in line to vote. I’m not sure I would have the endurance to do that either.
As per usual, good government requires a team effort. The folks that worked the polls deserve their kudos as well. We voted at the Pipers Meadow Neighborhood center. They did a great job of making sure everyone understood the process from marking the ground for social distancing to making checking in easy and seamless. I’ve heard good things from UHCL and other local voting locations. They’ve all done good work.
Part of the problem with the perception of government is that we are quick to criticize it when it doesn’t work and slow to praise it when it does. It’s also proof that elections matter. Not every issue is an abstraction that doesn’t affect our lives. Some hit very close to home and not every issue is a life and death one. Sometimes it’s the little things that just make our lives a little easier. Voting for people that know what they’re doing is important. It’s always what I respected about Ed Emmett and now I can say the same about Lina Hidalgo.