In early 2020 (just weeks before the pandemic), Smithsonian staff and their storytelling partners at the Peale, Baltimore, traveled to multiple states in the U.S. to ask residents of those states about voting experiences, the current state of American democracy, what issues brought them to the polls, how they made a difference in their communities, and what Americans' civic responsibilities were, among other complex questions.
David Lucier (00:00): My most interesting voting experience took place in 2004 in Iraq. I was a contractor there, and voting day came along. First time that free and fair elections had been held in Iraq in, I guess, several generations, several decades at any rate. And we had a lot of Iraqi citizens and civilians working for us. So voting day comes along and we said, "Well, we're going to take you to the polls." And they said, "No, no, no, no." They said, "First of all, our families will vote for us." They do it all the time and they know who to vote for, which I'm sure historically they did. And the second thing was, is that they didn't want to take the day off because they wouldn't get paid. And so we had to explain that this is a... The situation has changed, and now you vote, and your family votes separately and individually.
(01:16): You could tell that was didn't sink in right away, and they thought that to be strange. The second thing was, is that we said, "No, no, we pay you for the day. This is a civil responsibility." Well, the polling areas were quite a distance from where we work because we were in the hinterland and with bombs and explosives and things like that. So we put together a convoy and went on up the road to the polling place several miles away and had to fight our way through two ambushes. We did sustain some casualties, wounds, nobody was killed fortunately. And we took them to the polling place, they voted, came back with little purple thing on their finger, a little purple ink. And then we took them back.
(02:21): And fortunately the going backside was a little bit easier than the going to side. And it struck me that, like I said, that they were going to get paid for the day off to go vote. And that number two, that they had to vote themselves, and if they didn't vote, their families weren't going to vote for them. This was a big change. And so that was really my strangest, most interesting voting experience.
Asset ID: 2022.34.04.a-b
Themes: Voting, democracy, Iraq, Middle East, Gulf, elections, work, military, service, veterans, work
Date recorded: January 25, 2020
Length of recording: 0:03:02 m
Related traveling exhibition: Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Arizona Humanities
More information or related assets: https://azhumanities.org/smithsonian-exhibition-voices-and-votes-democracy-in-america/