Yesterday was election day. Although many people probably did not even realize it. Without any presidential or congressional candidates on the ballot, this election was not considered "important" by the media or the public at large. The ballot only focused on local issues. Yet, these local issues have much more impact on our day to day existence than who is seated in the State Capitol or the White House.
I won't pretend that I am the most politically astute person in the world. While I generally do some research on the major political candidates, I will admit that I often vote for school board members and circuit court judges based solely on name recognition.
Usually I stop by and vote in the evening, but I was driving past the school on my way to work yesterday and I saw that there were just a few cars parked out front. It was a rare morning that I wasn't running late for work, so I decided to go in and vote. I walked into the gymnasium and right up to the registration table. There was only one lady in front of me.
Like most cities, the election process in Dearborn is managed by a small but loyal group of senior citizens. I have seen some of the same people working the election table since I moved into my house almost ten years ago. The city still uses a paper-based voting system, with tighter checks and balances than some wall street banks.
First, the woman asked for my driver's license and checked my name off of her list of eligible voters. Then, with shaky hands and perfect penmanship she wrote a number on the voter certification paper and handed it off to the guy next to her. He entered that same number in his notebook and matched it with my ballot. Then he handed me the ballot in an over sized manila folder and it was time to vote.
The ballot had only a few items. First, there was a school board election. I forgot to research that one in advance, so I had to rely on my trusty name recognition method. Then there were three proposals for the voters of Dearborn to consider.
First, they were asking for a millage to increase funding for city services such as police, fire and trash collection. The proposal explained that the city's funding is based on property taxes and with the decline in home values, the city's revenue had been drastically reduced. More funding was needed to continue to support our city services.
I voted yes. I was actually familiar with this proposal because the city had sent two brochures to my house in the past month to explain it to me. And it made sense.
Next on the ballot was a proposal for a millage to increase funding for the city library. They too had suffered from the decline in city revenue and were asking voters for funding to improve some of the technology and services.
I voted yes. Even though I personally do not use our city library, I know that my sister takes my nieces and nephew there a few times a month. They love to check out books or movies, and play on the computers. And I am sure lots of other kids in our neighborhood do the same.
Finally, there was a proposal to sunset the city's civil service system. Dearborn is one of the few cities in the State that still has such a system. And it is redundant since all of the city employees are represented by eight different unions.
I voted yes. It made sense to me that the city was trying to streamline its Human Resources and administrative policies by getting rid of the outdated civil service rules.
After I finished voting, I walked back towards the table with my ballot in hand. I wanted to slide it into the bar code reader machine but I was waved off by the third senior citizen working at the table. He did not do anything before I voted, so I figured his part of the process must happen afterwards.
He took the voter certification paper that was paper clipped to my manila folder and he put it in a pile. Then he tore off a perforated strip from the top of my ballot and handed it back to me.
"Ok, you are all set." He smiled and motioned towards the bar code reader machine.
"Thanks," I said. "This is my favorite part!" And I took my ballot and slid it into the machine to be counted. I was voter number 27 for the day.
As I walked past the table on my way out, the old man looked up at me and said "My favorite part is you being here today."
The entire experience made me feel giddy with civic pride. If only the state and federal election process could mirror what I saw in the city of Dearborn this week. All three of the proposals passed. And the two people I selected for the school board actually won their seats too.
There were no crazy tea party people complaining about raising taxes and there were no knee jerk activists trying to preserve a civil service system that has clearly out lived its usefulness. The city of Dearborn made reasonable requests of its residents and stated its case clearly and succinctly. Then each of the individuals in our city came together and voted for what was best for the collective whole.
And an 80-year-old man made me blush. All in all, it was a good day.