Ten minutes.

That’s the total amount of time I spent at the polling place today, from the moment I got out of my car (1:10pm) to when I got back in (1:20pm). I was surprised because I’d heard stories of people who were there 70, 80, 90 minutes this morning. But a poll worker told me that the line had shrunk as the hours went by, to the point where there was no one waiting outside when I arrived, and only about ten of us inside.

Because of the pandemic, I had brought my own black pen, but at the door, a poll worker handed me a combo stylus/pen, which I was told I could keep — kinda like a game show parting gift, part of the Election Day Home Game! I strolled right over to the check-in table and handed over the absentee ballot I hadn’t sent in on purpose, because I wanted the experience of voting in person. Then came the best part.

St. Louis County recently spent $6.9 million to upgrade its voting process. Residents can now go to any polling place in the county, where they are handed a custom ballot printed especially for them. As long as they don’t run out of printer paper and toner, the system is said to be more secure than the previously-used touch-screens, because there’s a paper trail for every ballot.

I took mine, sat down at one of the tables among at least two dozen open spots where voters can fill out ballots simultaneously, and began darkening the spaces for the candidates I want. I was never very good at coloring within the lines, but there were no points deducted for sloppiness, as long as each box was completely filled. I worked my way from Biden/Harris down the rest of the ballot, skipping over (as I always do) the options regarding retention of the various county and state judges, because I have no idea who deserves to stay on the bench and who should be kicked aside. It has always seemed silly that jurists have to run for election in the first place.

When finished, I stuck my ballot in the scanner, waited for the “Your Vote Has Been Counted” message, affixed an “I Voted Today!” button to my shirt, and headed for my car.

I know there are polling precincts across the country where the weather is bad and/or the lines are long, the wait unbearable, and the burden un-American. I empathize with those who are forced to endure such travails, particularly in mostly-Black neighborhoods in states run by Republicans who know they can only retain power by suppressing the constitutional right to vote. That’s why it was so rewarding to see that a hundred million people have already voted — either in person, by mail, or by drop-off — thus lessening the stress on the Election Day systems.

But here in western St. Louis County (a blue section of a red state, with a mask mandate!), I have no complaints. Of course, that may change tonight and tomorrow when the returns come in, but for now, I’ve done my part.