I couldn't help but notice the hands as I worked the voter poll roster as an election inspector at a church in rural Niagara County. It was Nov. 7, and beginning at 5:45 a.m. people had been coming in to vote in this midterm election.
After I asked the voters' name and place of residence, I turned the poll roster around and asked them to sign where my finger was pointing, as I covered up their original signature with a piece of red paper.
It was then that their hands came into focus. They were, for the most part, hands of people who had worked hard all their lives. The hands were often clean, but some were dirty with their occupation. Cuts, scrapes and calluses showed through the grease, dirt and dust of the day's labor.
Makeshift repairs of electrical tape used as a bandage showed up on one hand; more professional work of stitches showed up on two others. On some the skin looked paper thin, almost translucent, as they reached for the pen. Some hands were swollen and others crippled with age and disease. A few were manicured and polished, mostly women who always seem to take better care of their nails than men. Some had rings; a simple wedding band, the shine dulled by everyday work; others an additional engagement ring.
When signing, the hands were sure and unsure; confident and insecure; aggressive and passive. Most signatures matched; some had changed; many acquiesced to the demands of a fast society and signed with a scrawl. The old usually signed very slowly and deliberately, not wishing to reveal the shakiness of their infirmity.
From their hands you couldn't tell if people were Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. They were simply hands of people of faith, people who sincerely believed that voting counted. These were people who got up early, who rushed home from a split shift or sacrificed their lunch hour or break time to cast a ballot.
Some walked through the rain when they could barely walk at all, depending on a cane or spouse to support them as they made their way to the table.
The hands that signed moved the lever from right to left and then, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, you could hear the click of the levers as fingers registered their choices. Their hands then pulled the lever, updating mechanical counters locked away within the machine. The curtain opened and they walked away.
I could feel a true sense of purpose and pride as they exited the building, the feeling of doing the right thing. Not because they had to, but because they needed to.
The next morning they may have been pleased or saddened by the outcomes, but they were all voters who believed in the promise of America, who come here election after election having faith that their vote counted and made a difference. They believe that, despite our differences, over time we are becoming a better nation and that voting helps make that happen.
That day in that small town, the two districts in that church each had more than a 50 percent turnout. The poll workers did everything possible to ensure that everyone who could vote did vote. It was an experience I shall never forget and hopefully will do again.
In this election, I was personally disappointed with the outcomes. However, I was never more confident and trusting of our electoral process as I was watching those hands on that Tuesday.
Francis Malczynski, of Olcott, has faith in the electoral process.