My late husband, Paul Mandracchia, loved to vote and nothing could dissuade him from doing so. Those who knew Paul were aware that the last several years of his life it took him forever to get dressed. Often there were three of us in on that project. Usually Jose or Anneke or Leslie joined me and Paul in tugging, rolling, pulling, twisting, and smoothing clothes on his immobile frame. It seemed on Election Day that this was more important than most other days. He wanted to look good at the polls. Even though he could no longer wear regular shoes or manage shirts with buttons, Paul was a dapper guy and loved to dress up for occasions. Election Day was an occasion for him
In the last few years of his life, Paul transitioned from voting on Election Day to early voting. While this was not his first choice, it was necessary because our polling station was inaccessible. The door to the polling station, a meeting room in a building less than a decade old, was too heavy to open and there was no outside touch pad to open it. Despite it being a municipal building, the Village Clerk dragged her heels on reporting the problem and argued with me and Paul about it regularly. (I am still advocating for a slight edit of Dante’s Inferno to afford her a special place in it.)
One time Paul lost out on voting because we got to the designated location to vote early on the afternoon of the Friday before the election, only to find it closed at noon because that was their normal closing time for the business office in our village. Again, the Village Clerk was perplexed by our upset when she heard about it. After all, it was the customary closing time for the business office. She was unmoved by state law providing five additional hours of voting.
In Wisconsin we have also been in a tug of war about voter IDs. For the past several years, there have been injunctions against implementing the law. This situation was always crazy-making for us because Paul didn’t have a valid ID. His driver’s license was expired and the nearest DMV was also inaccessible.
I remember more than once that Paul sobbed in the car after not being allowed to vote. I also remember him crying for joy after an angry poll worker accompanied by a police officer walked a ballot out to our car in the parking lot so Paul could direct me to mark his ballot. Yes, even our ballots are inaccessible to many people with diseases like MS.
For the past few weeks, our polling station that was inaccessible to Paul is now accessible. A pad was eventually installed at the door and was then moved to make it useable. Early voting is now also available on the Friday afternoon before Election Day; village office hours have been extended for that purpose. While I am happy about those accommodations, I am really pissed off that Paul didn’t live to see the day that the ADA became more nearly applied in our own village. I am also pissed off that we still need to battle the voter ID law that has come to roost in our state.
Still, I celebrate today that Paul and I figured out more often than not how to get him something he enjoyed so much – his vote.
Please don’t squander your vote. Get to the polls today. If you are up for it, also tell the poll worker that you are showing your ID under protest. It’s quite simple. When asked, hold out your ID, but don’t release it. When the worker looks at you, let it go while saying, “I give you this under protest.” Thank them, too.