Election season memories: First vote was for Ike


It’s election time, and I am reminded of the first time I was old enough to vote.

In Ohio, you had to be 21 years of age to vote. The year was 1952 and it was a national election. I voted for the first time by voting for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I have made every effort to vote in each election since, whether national or local. The only Fayette County elections I have not bothered with were when the mayor and council in Fayetteville would be running unopposed.

I have voted in Fayetteville, as can be recalled, in the American Legion Post House, the old Fayette County High School, the Fayetteville Methodist Church, and the Fayetteville Baptist Church.

When I worked for another local newspaper in town, as well as being a stringer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it was long before cell phones. The county offices were in the “old” courthouse, and election returns came into the third floor courtroom.

To be ahead of any other reporters who might show up, I made a deal with the late Probate Judge Jimmy White and borrowed a key to his office, which was located on the second floor. Access to a public phone was pretty much non-existent at that time around town.

No, I didn’t mention to anyone about having the key, you wanted to be the first reporter — had to be the first — to turn in the election returns outcome.

The election people would draw an imaginary line near the front of the courtroom, and boy, you had better never try to cross it. Their work was secret stuff, and you waited patiently until they called out each result as they arrived at it.

When you had enough information to make that first phone call, you disappeared into your secret place.

As the county grew and more reporters would be on hand, we learned to bring card games to entertain us throughout the long hours of waiting.

Remember, in the 1960s, ballots were pencil and paper ones. It took a long time to run those through counting machines.

Eventually, the county bought voting machines that took cards that you punched. At one point, it bought new counting machines for these cards. When they arrived, the election folks ran through test cards to be sure they were functioning correctly.

Just one thing, though. The cards that were passed out to each voting district were the “old” ones. Consequently, they would not run through the new counting machines.

Alas, what to do?

In the meantime, we reporters kept thinking results would be in soon, and played quite a few games of Trivia.

Finally, at 4 a.m., we found out what had happened and headed for home.

The county had to wait until 8 a.m. and call around to see which county could run through our cards. It turned out DeKalb County had the old machines but we had to wait until they were through with them.

I don’t remember what time our election folks got up there and back, but it was well up into the day.

One of the smartest things the state of Georgia did several years ago was to buy the electronic machines for every county in the state.

As I mentioned previously, back in the day when election returns came into the “old” courthouse, cellphones hadn’t been invented yet.

Access to coffee and sandwiches were also nonexistent.

You made a thermos of coffee before you left home, and packed a sandwich to bring along, as you never knew how long you were going to be there.

It was not unusual for one of the paper counting machines to jam. A call would come into the election office and someone had to drive out “yonder way” to try to fix it.

Just to answer the question about sharing, I didn’t share the key to the Probate Office to call in the returns, and I didn’t share my coffee or sandwich.

The question this week seems to be the legality of killing a United States citizen without due process, much less killing them on foreign soil.

A cursory study of “due process of law” finds that it originated in 1215 CE when the Magna Carta was drawn up. The premise has changed little since that time and is now found in our Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. It declares that the federal government cannot take away your land, imprison you, take away your inheritance, nor put you to death, without going through the courts of law and notifying you first.

Terrorists were not a problem from 1215 CE through the 20th century. American citizens had never before moved overseas and plotted the death of fellow Americans.

Since America is at war, new rules and regulations have been drawn up, evidently. Last year, the Justice Department compiled what could befall the fate of those who waged terrorist actions against us. It is my understanding that the CIA compiled a list of terrorists that could be killed due to their beliefs and actions that are harmful to Americans, regardless of where they were born.

Now, if I have all this incorrectly, please forgive me.

It is my personal opinion that concerning one Anwar Al-Awlaki, he personally inspired the guidance for the 9/11 Muslim terrorists of the mosque in Fall Church, Va., inspired the Fort Hood premeditated murders, was behind the Times Square bombing attempts, was involved in the mail bombs addressed to Chicago-area synagogues, among other things. He did not give due process of law to the Americans who were on the receiving end of these plots.

As long as the process to proceed with killing terrorists, albeit American citizens, was gone over with a fine tooth comb, the pertinent United States legals all agreed, and the Commander in Chief of the United States signed off on the matter, then it was OK by me.

Now on to something pleasant, the last Lunch on the Lawn will be held on Friday, Oct. 7, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bring your own lunch or purchase something there, I guarantee you will have a blast. It is held, of course, at the “old” courthouse on the Square.

The lawns there have seen Confederate soldiers garrisoned there in 1864, gypsies selling their wares in the 1920s and 1930s, the Sesquicentennial in 1971, when the county was 150 years old, and art shows from the 1960s. Come by and be a part of the courthouse lore.

[Carolyn Cary is the official Fayette County historian and the editor of the county’s first compiled history, “The History of Fayette County,” published in 1977. She lives in Fayetteville.]