By Linda Emley
When we think about November, Thanksgiving Day is the first thing that comes to mind. But when we stop and think about it, the most important day in November is the first Tuesday after the first Monday – Election Day.
Without elections, our lives would be very different. So why is election day always on a Tuesday? It was set up so no one would have to travel or vote on a Sunday. In the early days this was a big issue because some people had to travel a long journey to reach their polling location. We don’t realize how lucky we are today because we can just get in a car and go vote with very little effort.
If you live in Washington and Oregon, it’s even easier because they all get to vote by mail. I wonder how long it will be before that’s offered in all states. but personally I like going to the polls to vote because you get to see people you haven’t seen in a while. It reminds me of the good-old days when everyone would gather on the courthouse square every Saturday night.
The first presidential election was held on Jan 7, 1789 and was the only one to ever take place in a year not a multiple of four. In order to win the presidency, a candidate needs a majority of 270 electoral votes out of a possible 538. When I watch the map light up with electoral votes for each state, I still wonder why we do it like this. I’m one of those people that doesn’t understand why “we the people” don’t really get to elect our president and vice president.
It’s a strange concept that the people of the “electoral college” get to take our votes and cast them how they feel is best. They claim that 99 percent of the time, the electoral college votes how the voters want them to. This system of electing a president is not fool-proof as was witnessed in the president elections of 1878, 1888 and 2000, where we elected a president that did not get the most actual votes.
In the first presidential election, each member of the electoral college got two votes and would vote for who they wanted to be president. No one voted for a vice president because the candidate with the most votes was president and the person with the second-most votes became vice president. This was changed in 1804 with the ratification of the 12th Amendment. Can you imagine what a modern day election would be like if this style of picking a vice president was still being used?
In the early days of elections, only white men who owned property were allowed to vote. In 1869. the 15th Amendment gave the right to vote to black men. Women were the next to got the right to vote when the 19th Amendment was added in 1920. Most native Americans did not got the right to vote till 1924.
Ray County set up four voting precincts in 1821 and then reduced to two townships before the election of 1822. On the first Monday in August 1822, an election was held at the house of Andrew Turpin in Missouriton township and at the home of John Shields in the Bluffton township. It was a common practice to hold elections in a home, bar or some other local gathering spot. In Camden, a garment factory was even used for some elections.
Ray County was truly a land of opportunity. In 1823, an Irishman named Patrick Darcey became the first naturalized U.S. citizen given the right to vote. According to the 1881 Ray County History book, “And so, an ‘exile of Erin’ was the first foreigner to become a naturalized citizen of Ray. We presume he made a worthy citizen, and a useful member of society. If a true representative of the Emerald Isle, we know he paid his debts and his taxes, and was brave, generous, and unselfish. He was afterwards appointed road-overseer, and for the year 1831 was collector of the county.”
Patrick Darcey had a lot to do to earn the right to be a voting citizen. Most of us had it much easier; all we had to do was be born and go register to vote.
I thought it would be fun to see what the Richmond News headlines were on Nov. 3, 1948. That was the morning that the Chicago Daily Tribune headline read, “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The Richmond headline said, “TRUMAN IN AS PRESIDENT – SMITH VICTOR. The man from Missouri, who was almost not nominated at the Democratic convention, won his race by himself, fighting for victory when all the experts laughed at his efforts to do the impossible. Control of both the Senate and the House went to the Democrats.”
In Ray County’s 24 precincts, Truman carried 4,627 votes and Dewey got 2,089 votes. On the local front, Ray Countians voted 1,837 to 1,635 to separate the offices of circuit clerk and recorder of deeds.
Did you ever wonder what did Harry Truman did on the night before his re-election? According to the Richmond News, he spoke at a Shrines convention in Kansas City. “Thirteen Ray Countians went to Kansas City Monday where they were initiated into the Shrine organization. Following the ceremony they heard an address by President Harry S. Truman. The following men from Ray County were in a class of over 750 initiates: Roscoe Taylor, James Manley, Clifford Mohn, Eugene Harrison, William Shiner, Charles Woods, Jack Macey, Earl Keyes, Harold Whitmer, Verne Wilson and David Thompson of Richmond, William Strother of Rayville and John Wright of Hardin.”
So who is the most important person in our voting process? Is it the person that votes or the candidate we vote for? I know this sounds like the age-old what came first, the chicken or the egg debate, but this answer is a lot easier. You need voters and you need candidates, but there’s someone who’s indespensible for all elections. You can’t have one without election judges.
They are the people that make it all happen. They get up early and keep things running all day long. They make sure our voices are heard and our votes are counted. It takes 87 election judges to run a Presidential election in Ray County. These are people who work for a little over minimum wage. so they don’t do it for the money. The Ray County record for the most years of service is held by Sarah Russell from Millville. She gave us 42 years of service before she moved on to her heavenly reward a few months ago.
I don’t know if there is anything to vote on in heaven, but if there is, I am sure Sarah has it covered with all her years of election experience.
The next time you go vote, please take a minute and thank your election judges because our world would be a whole lot different if they weren’t there taking care of business so we can exercise our right to vote.
You can write Linda at rayc...@aol.com.