Donald Trump is right about one thing, anyway: The election is rigged. It turns out it’s rigged in my favor.

I vote at the Italian Heritage Center in the Stroudwater neighborhood of Portland. On Tuesday, Election Day, a long table at the entranceway to my polling place was lavished with homemade Italian cookies, pastries and cakes for sale. There were anise cookies, pignoli cookies, pizzeles, tiramisu, Italian coffee cake and biscotti ripieni.

That last, which a volunteer pronounced for me in an rolling, musical Italian accent that was the best thing I’ve heard in this long, wretched election season, was the unanimous, hands-down favorite among volunteers, beating even the cannoli, which came with a voter’s choice of chocolate chips or sprinkles. Biscotti ripieni, I was told, are anise biscotti filled with grape jelly, cherries, chocolate and walnuts. If the fact that you are lucky enough to live in a democracy and be able to vote is not enough incentive for you to actually go do so, these cookies could seriously sweeten the prospect.

The bake sale at the Italian Heritage Center benefits the center’s scholarship program, funding one of four annual $1,500 high school scholarships. At 1 p.m., many hours before the polls closed, they’d already raised that amount. Also by that hour, the Italian cookies had mostly vanished, replaced by take-home dinners for voters. Among a half dozen or so options, a generous plate of stuffed shells with meatballs on the side would set a voter back $8.50.

At Deering High School gymnasium, seniors were selling sweets and lunch around 1 p.m., benefiting the prom and Project Graduation, an alcohol-free party for graduating seniors, respectively. The problem? Nobody seemed to be voting at that hour. There was a lot of food but almost no takers. At East End Elementary School, where the bake sale benefited the library, arts enrichment and school events, they had the opposite problem: By about 11 a.m., the cookies were nearly out.

In an informal, incomplete and utterly non-scientific survey of Portland polling place election day bake sales, my polling place had just one real competitor: First Baptist Church in North Deering.


Picture this: another entranceway to another polling place with another long table so covered with plates of tempting homemade cookies the table is barely visible. A partial list of the cookie inventory sometime around noon on Tuesday included chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, molasses cookies, meringue cookies, Rice Krispie treats, and several types of brownies, pumpkin cookies and peanut-butter cookies. Bowls of pretzels and animal crackers were at the far end of the array. I tried to buy a sampling.

“This is not a sale,” church member Catherine Erskine kindly corrected me. “It’s free. Please have a cookie. And we have coffee, too.”

The idea for the cookie giveaway came from Hannah Veit, who has worked as the children’s director at First Baptist for three years. “I just thought we were missing the opportunity to love the community and share Christ’s love with them,” she said. “We have thousands of people coming through here today. The church is our house in a way, and we want to share with you. It’s a great opportunity to serve.”

How lovely is that?

Pity the poor voters assigned to vote at Merrill Auditorium, St. Pius Church, Grace Baptist Gymnasium or the Woodfords Club. They went hungry. The space at Woodfords Club, an election day volunteer explained, is simply too tight to accommodate a bake sale. It was hard to argue with her: At 1:30 p.m., a crush of voters formed two lines so crammed, A to L and M to Z, that it wasn’t possible to squeeze in the door past them. At Grace Baptist, a volunteer had a favor to ask me: “If you find something good, bring it over,” she said. “We could use a snack.”


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