The day after Donald Trump promised to keep us in suspense about whether he would accept the election results, I spent several hours talking to people waiting in line for the first day of early voting in North Carolina. I passed out cards with the Democratic slate and explained the state's voting rules, which haven't been easy to keep track of.
Less than two months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to restore a law passed by the Republican legislature that a lower court overturned, deciding it was enacted "with almost surgical precision" to suppress African-American voting. However, a provision to eliminate straight-party voting was left intact. In the 2012 elections, more than half of North Carolinians voted a straight-party ticket, so quite a few voters were not pleased when I told them they couldn't do it this time around.
But, for the most part, the people waiting in line on Thursday evening were happy, enjoying the balmy weather. I chatted with millennials wearing "Google Fiber Coming to NC" and "Keep Durham Dirty" T-shirts. I spoke to many people getting off from work, still wearing their medical scrubs or corporate badges from jobs in nearby Research Triangle Park.
Young parents carried babies or pushed strollers. A toddler asked what the chalk-drawn line on the sidewalk was for.
"I'm not allowed to step over it," I explained. I wanted to tell him that we live in a democracy where we are lucky to have a free, fair vote without intimidation, but his parents were already giving him that lesson.
Mostly I saw women, middle-aged and older, with smiles on their faces. One woman literally ran to the line, exclaiming, "I can't wait to vote for the first woman president!"
Several dozen members of an African-American sorority waited in line together and chatted afterwards, upholding their tradition of coming to the poll on the first day of early voting.
Nearly everyone took my blue Democratic slate, especially after I told them they couldn't vote straight party. A few people shook their heads no, with a frown. But no one, absolutely no one, was rude. Many thanked me for the information and for being there.
I asked a number of people what brought them out on the first day of voting, despite the long line. Most said, "I'm just ready."
Today, I went back to the polls - after a week of temperatures in the 80s, it was barely in the 50s at 9 a.m., with a stiff wind. And the line was even longer than Thursday evening. Some people were dressed in parkas and scarves, others in shorts and flip-flops. But not one single person left the line in the two hours I stood there.
I was joined by a young woman passing out a Republican slate of candidates. We talked about the change in the weather and jointly complimented several children on their Halloween costumes. Many more people took my blue card than hers, but everyone was polite.
We were even joined today by an official poll observer, sent by the Democratic Party. He happened to be a Dutch native and I teased him that he should be wearing a United Nations badge or maybe he could pretend he was Russian. When I left at noon, I asked him how the morning had gone.
"No riots," he said from his lawn chair. "I thought I might need my cane to keep the peace."
This is what democracy looks like--people happy to wait in line to make their voice heard, politely accepting or refusing campaign literature from someone they disagree with. Clinton will no doubt win big in Durham--a highly-educated area with a high proportion of African-Americans (Obama won 76% of Durham County votes in 2012.)
If Clinton wins the presidency, it's not because this election is rigged -- it's because after a long, brutal campaign season, we're more than ready to finally have our say.