On primary election day many years ago, my husband and I went to our polling location together. He was ahead of me in line and asked for a particular party ballot, as was required of our state in a primary election. When it was my turn, I asked for my party ballot, which happened to be a different ballot than my husband took.
An older lady election judge looked at me curiously with confusion, “You mean you want this party ballot.”
“No, I want that party ballot,” I explained and smiled.
She looked at me again with the curiosity of a museum oddity, “But your husband took that party ballot.”
What I really wanted to say was welcome to the 1990’s lady, the dark ages left you behind. I couldn’t believe that 75 years after women were finally granted the right to vote, this woman would insist that I, a well-educated and well-informed voter, could not choose my own party and candidates, simply because I was a woman or a even married woman. But I restrained myself and just smiled.
“I’ll take that party ballot, thank you. I make my own choices.”
I took the ballot, leaving her strangely befuddled and annoyed and went into my voting booth.
Later, when we were in the car, my husband told me the woman called him aside when he left the voting booth and whispered to him incensed, “Do you know your wife took that party ballot?” She whispered it like I had committed a crime that could not be spoken aloud.
My husband knew very well the way I voted, but as a joker with a weird sense of humor, he decided to play along and pretended to be enraged. “She did what?”
When he told me this later, I couldn’t believe it. Not only did she not think a woman could make her own electoral choices, she felt it was her civic duty to inform on her? This woman didn’t know the kind of relationship we had. She could have carelessly and without forethought created a dangerous and complicated situation for me, simply to soothe her self-righteous indignation, while betraying her own gender.
A few days later, my husband told my mother-in-law the election judge story. His mother spent decades as an election judge. I always joked that her first election was George Washington for president. Having an infinite penchant for rules, she went on and on about how I should report that lady and how that conduct was expressly against the rules.
I was somewhat perplexed by her fervent objections. For years, she and I continually battled wills regarding her ideas that men don’t do any kind of housework, wash dishes, or take care of children and women with children should stay home and not work. My views and my husband’s actions to the contrary were a source of constant irritation to her, which she voiced at every opportunity. She even introduced me to people as her daughter-in-law who works, as if that was my title.
Curiously, I couldn’t understand why this is where she drew the line. But I wondered if it was the subjection of woman and their choices or the mere obstruction of rules she protested. I guess I would never know.
The next election, I made sure to be ahead of my husband in line to exercise my right to vote. Just in case that lady was there, I wanted her and others like her to hear me clearly declare my choice in front of my husband and create no doubt in their minds that I choose.
Author’s Note: I did not say the specific party in this story as I believe voting rights are private.
(c) Copyright 2020, Suzanne Rudd Hamilton.