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Pumpkin Spice Election

I don't like nutmeg. I do like elections.

This column was originally published on October 8, 2020 in The East Hampton Press, but I forgot to put it on the website. We're having a rainy weekend here in East Hampton and I' was tidying up the old website when I noticed this mistake.

Obviously things have moved on (thank goodness). We don't have the pumpkin spice guy now (thank goodness). And I have continued to be a poll worker at the elections (so fun!).

Please remember to vote this year. Every election is important.

When I set out to write one of these columns, I try to think of a subject that’s timely, relatable and relevant to life out here on the East End. Then I put my quirky spin on it, generate 900 words and voilà! A column enjoyed by several people.

You’re welcome for that peek into my writing process.

This month, my plan was to discuss the ubiquity of pumpkin spice. I formulated a vague scheme of tasting our local coffee shops’ October offerings. I also intended to get some pumpkin spice Peeps. Alas, Peeps won’t be in production again until Easter, either a covidian calamity or a covidian miracle.

I approached my pumpkin spice plan with trepidation because I’m not a fan of the flavor, I don’t sleep well in general, and too much nutmeg can be poisonous. Consuming a high-sugar, caffeinated, potentially toxic beverage for the sake of my “art” didn’t seem worth the insomnia, stomach upset, and possible psychoactive reactions.

With my deadline looming, I got myself a Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte, because if one is going to embark on a semi-serious examination of this drink genre, one should begin at ground nutmeg zero.

Guess what? I didn’t like it.

And so, friends of the column, I have to pivot to different topic.

When I set out to write one of these columns, I try to discuss one idea cohesively. I haven’t done that here. Instead, I’ve squandered 250 words discussing a subject I had no intention to write about.

Another peek into my writing process: not all of these columns are winners. It’s something I have to live with.

It’s akin to living with the result of the 2016 Presidential election.

Guess what? I didn’t like it.

I was disappointed we missed the chance to have our first woman president. I couldn’t fathom that anyone could think this pumpkin spice reality star would be a decent president. And I realized that depending on pre-election opinion polls wasn’t enough to help the causes I believed in.

It seems putting on a pantsuit and posting an “I voted” selfie isn’t sufficient.

I was raised to do more. My parents were politically active. In the fall of 1968, my father pulled four-year-old me around in my Radio Flyer as he campaigned for Hubert Humphrey. I handed out the bumper stickers. When my nursery school teacher asked what I did over the weekend, I told her, “I champagned.”

Either I was too young to know the word campaign, or I was a limousine liberal from the get-go.

At age 4, Hubert Humphrey’s defeat was a good lesson to learn – like my column, not all candidates are going to be winners.

After 2016, I decided to become more politically engaged. I’m a blue voter in a blue state, but sometimes I feel I can’t have any more impact than I had in my Radio Flyer.

I’ve changed since 1968. I can text bank and I can send postcards. And I have a credit card.

Yet it’s not enough to just campaign for my side. The talk of a potential shortage of poll workers due to virus fears prompted me to sign up. It takes all of us to run a democracy.

I recently attended a three-hour training seminar from the Suffolk County Board of Elections (BOE) on how to do the job. I came away very encouraged.

In New York, we can vote by absentee ballot, early in-person, or in-person on Election Day. We can submit our absentee ballot by mail, or drop it off at the county BOE office, at early voting sites, or at your Election Day polling site. Check for specific deadlines and hours.

This should ease the crowds on Election Day and help protect everyone from exposure to the virus. For those voting in-person, the poll workers will be following the CDC’s safety guidelines: masks, distance, and hand sanitizing. And they will encourage voters to do the same.

Moreover, our votes are safe. The voting machines are secure. And our votes will only be counted once. They keep track of every ballot.

Also, any determinations that have to be made at the site, such as whether signatures match, will be done by a pair of inspectors – one from each party. I’m excited to meet my Republican buddy. A new friend who, like me, is willing to put their own partisan viewpoints aside to help Election Day run smoothly.

In these divisive times, I was inspired to see how dedicated our county BOE employees are. They are professionals who keep our elections free and fair year after year. Including the elections that don’t have so much at stake. That’s because they know that in every election, our democracy is at stake.

At the end of the training seminar, we all stood up to take the oath to be inspectors. This is the same oath that all members of government, BOE employees, members of our military, our judges, and our representatives take. You might have heard our president take it on inauguration day. He swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Pumpkin spice is so pervasive. Sometimes I think I’m the only person who hates it. That’s okay – we all have a right to our own opinions.

I think we can all agree that democracy tastes much better.

Please make a plan and vote.

Published in The East Hampton Press on October 8, 2020

Photo by Heidi Kaden for Unsplash

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