AUTHOR: linda TITLE: Story about a poll mama DATE: 10:29:00 AM ----- BODY:

I was the first person at my voting location today. Last election year on November 7th, I stood in a long line of responsible citizens caught between routine and a morning rush of duty, and I wasn't going to make that mistake again.

The polls open at 7 am and I was there by 6:50, sipping coffee and ready to vote as efficiently as possible before my usual beginning of any other day.

I got to watch the volunteers set up their signs, sweep condensation off the handicap ramp, and chat with other early-birds who arrived after me. I watched the Poll Mama scan the sidewalks and homes across the street or any illegal political advertising. And with a sorry face she told me they weren't delivered any "I voted" stickers. Darnnit, that's what I came for!

At 6:59 am we were officially invited in, and I discovered that as first voter I get to make the final check on the voting machine -- Poll Mama showed how it was empty, at zero, and had produced a ream of zero receipts, looked at me for confirmation, then locked it up and set me to go.

With much ceremony, each long paper form was torn from its pad and placed in it's big blue secrecy sheath, then handed to me by Poll Mama, who said with her crooked-grin, "vote early, and often!" I went to the first cubby-hole booth, carefully marketed my pre-determined choices, collected the forms and walked over to feed them through the machine.

I bid the volunteers farewell and Poll Mama said to me: "it's been a pleasure to participate in Democracy!"