The town moderator is responsible for running the elections. It’s not a big chore. The town clerk, the supervisors of the checklist, and the ballot clerks do all the work; the moderator is a figurehead. In this town, I’ve been the figurehead for 12 years.
The moderator opens the polls at 8:00 a.m., stands at the checkout table, takes everyone’s ballots from their hands (as state law requires), and puts them in the box.
The ballots are made of paper, and it’s a wooden box, made in 1883, the same year that our Victorian town hall was built. The voters mark their ballots with pencils in little booths with red-white-and-blue curtains.
The polls close at 7:00 p.m. and we start counting the votes by hand. The only sounds are the shuffle of the ballots, the scratching of pencils, and the murmur of the clerks. We’re usually finished by 10:00, although in a presidential election, we’ve stayed as late as 1:00 in the morning.
After announcing the results, I thank the workers for participating in this civic sacrament. That’s when I get choked up; the weight of what we’ve been doing hits me hard. This is democracy—marking pieces of paper, putting them in a wooden box, and then counting them one by one.