Delaware has the best elections

Delawareans, in the act

Whenever Election Day rolls around, like lots of folks, senior staff at MoT reflect on previous elections.  Their memories eventually rest on a time–a time before there even was an MoT!–that they lived in Delaware and enjoyed its superior elections process.  This will come as a surprise to many, since the state of Small Wonders rarely attracts much attention unless it catches spillover news from New Jersey or Philadelphia, is mentioned as the destination of Amtrak-lovin’ Joe Biden, or is featured on the Discovery channel’s study of Punkin’ Chunkin’.  Indeed, it’s easy to overlook a small place that is for most people little more than a rest stop on I-95 between DC and NY; a region that is sort of north and sort of south all at once, a place that is on the eastern coast of the country but doesn’t really feel “East Coast,” a state whose official bird is a crabby blue chicken and whose official plant is Scrapple.  Even after living there for a few years, a person may wonder . . . well, a person wonders about Delaware.

But not on Election Day.  On this day Delaware shines like a little diamond with policies and practices that make even the most disillusioned voter stand a little taller and walk with a little more pride when they take part in the process.  First, at the polling place, individual voters are announced as they step into the booth.  It’s a bizarre surprise the first time it happens to a person–but a cool thing, an American thing, to adapt a practice dreamt up for announcing lords and ladies at Ye Olde Timey society balls to every chicken farmer, DuPont chemical engineer and MBNA junior accounts manager who goes to cast a ballot.  It’s a practice that dignifies even the lowliest polling place, and a vastly superior experience than having your code number passed to you by an emphysemic blue-haired retiree as they cough into their other hand and nod in the direction of the machine you’re supposed to go use, which is what happens at MoT‘s local nicotine-stained VFW.  (A sad event in the Land o’Lincoln, to be sure.)

The follow-up to Election Day is even better.  Two days after the election, Delaware celebrates Return Day (and have been since the eighteenth century) with a celebration in Georgetown, the town where voters used to all go to cast their votes.  Former candidates (successful and not) take part in a carriage parade, and then leading members of the two parties bury the hatchet–literally.  They get a hatchet and stick it in sand and, for at least a short time, the dust is allowed to settle and people put party pettiness aside to share a plate of Scrapple.  In its animated use of civic space with activities that instill a truly civil character into the electoral process, Delaware’s elections  exemplify traditions that are worth spreading to other states (maybe minus the Scrapple).

Delaware: letting freedom ring and questionable pork products fry since 1787

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