I have never been a fan of waiting, and the older I get, the less I like it; the grains of sand in my life’s hourglass are flowing faster, and I don’t want to waste any of them.
So while I wanted to vote early, I didn’t want to spend time waiting in line.
I thought I had a good plan. That first week, Johnston had just one early-voting site open, in Smithfield, so I my plan was to wait until the other sites opened on Oct. 27; that would mean fewer people at the Smithfield site. And I would go late morning, avoiding people who planned to use their lunch hour to vote early.
When I walked into the First Baptist Church Ministry Center, I saw just a few people waiting to receive their ballots; I had succeeded. But then a gentleman at a desk told me the line formed down the hallway to his right. There, I found myself at the back of a line that probably had 20-some people in it.
Never miss a local story.
But with ample poll workers handing out ballots and ample voting booths, the line moved quickly. I still spent more time waiting than I had hoped to, but hats off to the Johnston County Board of Elections staff for making early voting relatively quick and easy.
As a bonus, I got to see Ann Stallings, who was among those signing in voters and dispensing ballots. Ann was supervisor of Johnston elections when I came to the Herald as a young reporter, and she was always nice to me.
The good news about a line to vote on a random Thursday in October is that it portends a large turnout for the 2016 elections.
I can think of little good to say about this year’s elections – less-than-desirable candidates for president, negative TV ads and campaign mailers telling half-truths, annoying phone calls from politicians and pollsters.
But a large turnout says that voters are engaged, and that’s good for our democracy.
What’s not good for democracy is the one-party system in Johnston County politics.
I am a lifelong Republican, and I celebrate as much as anyone when a Republican wins elected office in Johnston County.
But the county’s Democratic Party is making it too easy on the Johnston GOP. Here’s the most-glaring example: Four Johnston County commissioner seats are up for election on Nov. 8, and three of the candidates are unopposed. Hats off to Democrat Wendy Ella May for challenging incumbent Republican Ted Godwin. But that’s it.
I wasn’t surprised when no Democrat filed to challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Carver. But the Democratic Party did Johnston County no favors when it failed to run anyone against GOP commissioner hopefuls Larry Wood and Keith Branch, who lack the advantage of incumbency.
It’s not that I think a one-party system produces objectionable candidates, though Mr. Branch has said some odd things about the role of education and some disparaging things about poor children in Johnston County.
And it’s not that I worry, as some Republicans do, that a one-party system eventually leads to complacency and then defeat.
I worry that the Johnston County Republican Party will eventually fall out of favor, and out of power, because the party is becoming exclusive, unwelcoming to people who don’t think exactly like the party’s leadership thinks.
With a long line of local election victories, I fear the party is becoming arrogant, so sure of itself and its ideas that it thinks it no longer needs Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent.” Indeed, the party’s leadership essentially banished GOP school board candidate Summer Hamrick after she posed for an innocent photo with fellow school board hopeful Crystal Roberts, a Democrat. I doubt the Democratic Party banned Ms. Roberts.
“Unity,” Reagan said, “does not require unanimity of thought.”
Johnston County’s Republican Party should remember that, or it might one day find itself on the outside looking in.