Gemstone in the Debris?

Do you think you would you come nearer finding a jewel in a pile of debris or discovering something encouraging in the recent election process?

I might have joined you in choosing the first except for a first-person account from a friend who had just returned from standing in line to vote on November 8. She said the young African American woman ahead of her handed her voter registration card to the election clerk. The clerk examined the big book of voters, but couldn’t find her name.

The clerk looked up as she finished her search to see tears rolling down the young woman’s cheeks. “Oh, honey, don’t you worry. You’re going to get to vote.” (In Mississippi, “Honey” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are acquainted with the person to whom you are speaking, just that you hear her concern and feel her pain.)

Evidently, the voter’s registration had been too late to get her name in the big book. The clerk took her back into another room to verify her registration.

I listened to the story and was filled with wonder at how things have changed. Before the nineteenth amendment (the Susan B. Anthony Amendment) was passed in August 1920, the voter would not have been allowed to cast a ballot because she was a woman.

While the right for African American males to vote was ratified in February 1870, the reality of that privilege, especially in the South, would take much longer – even far beyond the nineteenth amendment. On Election Day 2016, poll taxes and requirements for interpreting complicated passages in the constitution to the satisfaction of a circuit clerk existed only in the history of this voter’s ancestors. Instead, the Mississippi election worker’s immediate reaction to her tears was, “Now, honey, don’t you worry. You’re going to get to vote.”

One small light in the long dark tunnel of a contentious election – better than finding a gem in the rubble.