You’re familiar with the maxim, often cited by the tedious, “If you don’t vote you can’t complain”? 

I voted. Buckle up. 

Despite my right as a resident of Cook County to vote wherever I want for whoever I want, however many times I want, it has for complicated reasons been a while since I voted here. 

Last Saturday I went to early vote. This option is new since the last time I did this. I’m brimming with questions. How early can one plausibly vote? I know people who would cheerfully vote party line once now and be done with it forever. Can they vote 10 years out? 

Speaking of how early you can start, is the opening of early voting creeping forward a little earlier every year like Black Friday sales? Are there people who line up a couple of days out to ensure they have the first pick of the votes available? I like my elections Chicago-style, so I wonder if early voting makes the usual frauds easier or harder to commit? Do the dead vote early? What about the folks who’re voting three-four-five times? Can all their votes be cast early or do they have to make extra trips? 

Anyhow, I got there at 9 a.m. Saturday, ready to do my civic duty as fast as possible so I could get on with more pressing matters like picking up dry cleaning.

Step One: Get driver’s license scanned to ver– … no, wait:

Step One: Stand in the kind of line I’d hoped to avoid standing in by voting early.

Step Two: Get driver’s license scanned to verify identity. I was successful on that, though I did require two tries. I had to provide a signature early in the process. I did the same impatient wiggly line everybody else does when signing something with a finger on a touchscreen, and it was flagged for not matching the signature on my driver’s license. That signature, having been made with a pen, is a bit more of an autograph-style formal “Alan Brouilette” than the line described by the gesture one makes to convey “Please bring me the check” across a crowded restaurant. We had to start again but the person behind the table was patient. 

The successful presentation of ID and writing of my own name earned me a paper receipt and a microchip card. The receipt wasn’t anything of note (I had hoped for door prizes or perhaps a raffle) but the microchip card entitled me to get in a second long line. That line ended some time later with me standing in front of a large touchscreen where I encountered a lot of opportunities to offer opinions on matchups about which I knew nothing. God bless America, this is how we do things here. 

I suppose I could have done some homework, but if many years in media taught me anything about the importance of voting, it is that if an election is really, really close, very few votes will count at all because the matter will be decided, contested, appealed, and decided again in court, and the centerpiece of all the court time will be the heavy implication that the voters aren’t bright enough to touch a screen or poke a hole in a piece of paper with intent and purpose. This makes it tough to take the whole thing seriously, so I try not to stress about outcomes. 

They did give me a sticker, which I appreciated, and I guess there’s something comforting in knowing that I have formally renewed my right to complain for two more years. 

And really, if there’s any right I cherish it’s that one.