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Jay Greeson
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Hamilton County polling places

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They arrived early Wednesday.

One member of the Hamilton County Election Commission team said the line started for early voting before 7 a.m., even though the doors didn't open until 8.

Staking their claim. Holding their spots. Eager to have their voices heard.

Make no mistake, the quick start was not fleeting. It was steady, if not overflowing at times.

To be fair, that's the way it goes on the first and the last days of early voting, according to an election commission worker.

At a little after noon, the lunch crowd was a potpourri of the populace.

There was a UTC society girl in a T-shirt commemorating homecoming earlier this fall. There was a retired couple from East Brainerd and the Chattanooga firefighter helping everyone in line. There were folks in business suits. There were a few motorcycle riders, duded out in their riding regalia that included patches that said "Biker Grandpa" and "Crashes Suck." That last one may be the most astute sentiment of this entire campaign.

Black and white, men and women — diversity ruled the first day of early voting. When I was at the election commission office at 12:15, there were 11 blacks and 11 whites in line. That may be the most gratifying result of this entire process.

Your ballot is blind. It sees no color and knows nothing about the balance of your checking account or what your address may or may not be.

"I have voted every chance I have had," Josh Paul, a self-admitted political junkie who lives in East Brainerd, said outside of the election commission headquarters. "This is one of the great things about our great country."

Democracy at work. For the first time since we have been forced to choose between a billionaire brat and a corrupt career politician, it feels like those of us who walk the streets of this great country get to finally have a say.

God bless America.

In the worst, most polarizing, most covered and least impressive presidential campaign ever, the spirit and the signs, the passion and the patriotism were on display off Amnicola Highway.

"Yeah, this is important, because I get a chance to make a difference," Rita Renee of Chattanooga said after casting her vote Wednesday. "Some people may say it won't make a difference, but at least I tried."

At least she tried. God bless you, Mrs. Renee.

"I trust in the process," Paul said. "What you see in the news makes this look like a zoo, but when you get in there and wait in line and know you are having a say in this, you know it's not the end of the world."

Paul offered that he voted for Gary Johnson, the third-party Libertarian candidate who has almost no chance of victory.

It was a vote, he said, that was as much against the other, better-known candidates as it was for Johnson.

Most importantly, it was a statement, his statement.

We all get to make one in the days ahead. And it's more important now that ever, even if it's not.

Yes, Tennessee will almost assuredly stay red whether you vote or not, but in the most decisive election in history, no vote is worse than any bad vote.

It has been easy to forget the greatness of our democratic system because of the behavior of two of the worst candidates imaginable.

The insults and the embarrassments. The vitriol and the vulgarity. The ever-present scandals.

It has become an election season of the worst, and far too many are voting against a candidate rather than for a candidate. That's a shame.

Because we are Americans, and this is the United States, Wednesday represented not only the chance for us to speak, but a reminder of who we are and what's right with our great country.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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