Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

The Early Bird Feels Like a Worm

It felt traitorous to vote early. I'd never done so before, partly because it always seemed rather undignified to fill out a ballot at the same place I'd buy broccoli, but also because I was loyal to my old polling place, located in a rehab center where the residents considered election day a major holiday. And November 2, 2004, was better than Christmas, what with an hours-long line of would-be voters stretching up and down the fluorescent hall, past the physical therapy rooms and the dining areas serving up Jell-O.

A dozen years ago, when I moved to the edge of Highland, the first people I got to know were those who voted early -- and by that I mean 7 a.m. on election day, not exactly eight days before the polling places officially close.

But since my old precinct isn't one of the city's new vote centers and all the skeletons have already been pushed from the candidates' closets, I figured I had nothing to lose by voting early. And so at 7 p.m. yesterday I headed over to the Wellington E. Webb Building -- and found the main entrance on West Colfax Avenue, the one advertised on all the web sites and fliers, locked up tight. There were signs on the doors announcing that this was a vote center, and suggestions of activity inside, but no one answered when I banged on the door. Finally, when I found a button to push, a disembodied voice asked, "What do you want?"

"I want to vote," I said.

"Oh, then you need to come around back, to the Court entrance," the voice replied.

"It would help if there were a sign!" I snipped.

"Tell that to the Denver Election Commission," the voice snipped back.

Not to worry, I will.

But first, I wandered around the block to the back entrance, pounded on that door and finally made it inside — where I set off the security scanner. Divested of every piece of metal, I joined the election workers, who outnumbered voters by five to one. The new machines worked fine, although it was a little unnerving to see your votes tallied like broccoli and other purchases on what looked like a grocery receipt (stored and saved, in case the election commission has to do some kind of hand recount). And then, my civic duty done, I left out that same obscure door.

And this morning, when fourteen— count 'em, fourteen — political ads aired on Channel 9 between 5:30 and 6 a.m., I paid them only glancing attention (could anyone who made it through this year's ballot possibly think that a vote on Initiative 38 — which would allow for yet more petitions — is a good thing?). But as I drove past the rehab center right after 7 a.m., when a week from today I'd usually be joining a few neighbors in line, I still felt slightly traitorous. -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun