Bruce Yernberg, a member of the MN State Retiree Council's Board of Directors, on the history of mail-in voting, and its importance in the 2020 election
Contributor: Bruce Yernberg
I remember, as a young lad, my first experience with voting. My father would come home from work one hour early with a days’ worth of honest dirt clinging to him. I would hear my mother telling him to clean up and put on some decent clothes. “It’s Election Day ya’ know.” He knew. After an early supper I, my brother and sister, plus mom and dad would walk down to the polling place located inside my elementary school. We had no car. The walk was dark and cold. I was their eldest and during our walk I was given instruction on how to watch my brother and sister while they voted. Unspoken by them, but well known by me, was my reward. Sweets!
After my parents voted they would visit with neighbors in the school cafeteria. Sitting at tables with collapsible seats built for children, they would have political predictions drinking steaming cups of translucent coffee. They could never find ashtrays so they used their cuffs. Coffee and sweets were provided by the school’s PTA. I faintly remember my dad listening to a neighbor who secretly pointed at another neighbor while whispering to my dad that the guy was a Republican…like that was a bad thing. The pointed to guy was a well-known neighborhood insurance man whose son was my best friend.
Each of us kids would get as close as we could to the sweet table. When we had the go-ahead we ran to the sweet table. The sweet table, guarded by Mrs. Bjorkland, was loaded with tasty bars, cookies (all homemade) and pitchers of a watery warm cherry drink. Mrs. Bjorkland called the drink nectar. Each kid got their choice of one bar and one cookie. A mini paper cup was half filled with nectar. There must have been something wrong with the nectar because the paper cup turned into pulp before we finished.
In 1968 I voted for the first time. I was an enlisted man in the service and voted by mail. Yes, by mail in 1968! My dad sent me the Duluth Labor World and wrote in the margins about some of the candidates I should vote for and why. I had to find an officer to witness who I was to make it legal.
Since then I have voted in person at the polls every election, except for this year.
I have talked to some of my senior friends and they will continue to go to the polls. I get the fellowship thing and nobody misses it more than me. I will also miss the flags and the rest of the patriotic trappings. And I will miss the Judges who I have known for years. I won’t miss the store bought bars.
Look, many know I am not fond of new ways of doing things. My kids just shake their heads at my lack of technical skills. Zoom, tweets, smartphones and even Facebook are not useful communication tools for me. I still have a land line. My life is just fine following the old ways. But this is the year for seniors to stay safe and vote by mail. I did vote absentee for the primary and I will for the General Election. I applied using the State AFL-CIO link. It was easy. Do it. Get it done early. Drop it in the mail. Have a glass of nectar.
*What we need to do about it