Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

Find the Time

If you didn’t get a mail ballot or aren’t yet registered to vote, go do it in person in Kalispell

The leaves patched the ground. They’d been falling all morning as the cold wind blew across the field. We’re working the row in the rain, gearing up to plant garlic before the ground froze.

The top soil was muddy-wet. An inch down, it was dry from the blazing summer sunshine that had driven the worms further down into the ground. A few came up for water. More will appear in the coming weeks.

In the farmhouse, the woodstove was cranking. We hung the raingear on hooks and put the mud-laced boots down by the heat to dry for tomorrow. We know there’s more work ahead. Every farmer knows the work doesn’t stop. The tone may change, but the work continues.

2020 has been one hell of a year. There’s little doubt that people are having a hard go of it. It doesn’t seem fair. Most people find the rent too high, the wages too low, and opportunities scant. It makes for hard living.

It’s sad. At times it feels like the path forward is difficult to see. I keep my eye on the row. It is long. There is plenty of garlic to get into the cold ground before snow arrives. If we want 2021 to be any different, we have to plant the seed this fall.

I grabbed my trusted pocket knife from my jeans. It has seen lots of activity this season. The blade needed a stone. It was the same pocket knife I have used for years, the one which cut the fishing line from the pelican, the one that cut the string to hang the onions in the barn.

The steel opened the envelope just fine. I closed the blade, put the knife back in my pocket. I’d need it later. There is always more farm work. It was the contents of the envelope I was after. It should be what every American was after. The 2020 election ballots arrived.

If you didn’t get a ballot, call the election office in Kalispell or just go there and vote. Bring an ID or a paystub, utility bill, or bank statement to vote or register.

I separated the different color contents comprising of voting instructions, secrecy envelope, the pre-paid return envelope, and my official ballot stamped Flathead County. Out flopped my “I Voted” sticker. I set it aside thinking I’d wear it about town, as if the virus would soon let us see friends.

I found a blue pen on the table. A black one would work. I readied to fill-in some dots next to the people who will lead us over the upcoming years. A handful of votes will decide margins.

I spent a couple minutes completing the ballot. I looked it over, felt good about it. My vote was closer to being counted. I put my ballot in the secrecy envelope, then the pink return envelope. I hadn’t moved so I just needed to sign the back of the envelope, date it, and return it back to the county.

I mailed my pre-paid ballot, thought about dropping it at the Whitefish City Hall’s ballot drop box, but this was the last week with time on our side. Columbia Falls City Hall also has a drop box.

Ballots can be placed into city drop boxes or delivered directly to the Flathead County Election office in Kalispell. You don’t want to be late. You want your vote to count. If you didn’t get a mail ballot or aren’t yet registered to vote, go do it in person in Kalispell.

With voting off my mind, I can again focus on the never-ending list of farm chores. At least the land is reliable, nurturing, and generous. It urges me to be nice, work hard, and have courage.