Tuesday, for the 2012 Presidential Election, Dave and I did our civic duty by working a local polling place. It’s something we’ve always talked about doing, so after receiving a robo-call asking for volunteers, and offering us a generous stipend of a whopping $105, we figured “Why not?”
I’ll tell you why not…
We were at those freaking polls from 6:00 AM until 9:30 PM. Yes, you read that correctly – 15 1/2 hours! Of course, we each did get a 45 minute break so we could grab a bite to eat and go vote ourselves. (I don’t like to vote by mail – I like to go into the booth and get my sticker dammit!) I should be fair and admit that we were both offered a second break, but did not take it – the polls were busy and
we like to act like martyrs we were actually enjoying ourselves.
So yes, we popped out of bed at five o’clock, took quick showers, ate a fast breakfast, sucked down some coffee and headed to a polling place a few miles away.
We lucked out because we had an awesome and experienced inspector and she and her husband had set up the booths the night before. All we needed to do before opening the polls at 7AM was set up the outside signs, take the voting box out of her car and set that up and take our oath.
I volunteered for the job of Street Index Clerk and crossed off the addresses of voters on a master and second copy and then rotated it with a third copy every hour. (And would have to quickly update the 3rd copy.) The reason for this is so poll watchers can check the list to see who’s voted and go knock on doors or make phone calls and encourage people in their party who haven’t voted to vote. Of course this only happens in cities of swing states. Not in California. Especially in the suburbs. Even though there are way more Republicans here than I ever imagined. WAY MORE!
One woman I know was registered as a Republican and kind of stood there for a minute holding her ballot and looking a little dazed. I asked her if she needed help. She turned to me and said, “No, I just need to take a deep breath and convince myself I can do this.”
I’m not sure if that meant she was going to jump party lines and vote for Obama because she wasn’t very happy with the men in her party telling her what she could and could not do with her body or she was going to vote for Mitt despite those same reasons. Of course I’m just speculating. Maybe she was on the fence between writing in Ron Paul or voting for Rosanne Barr.
As a poll worker you have to remain neutral and not become engaged in or even allow any kind of political discussion. Even when someone (Republican) shows you his ID and you say, “I don’t need to see your ID” and he says, “Well, you should have to,” or when someone (Republican) comes to vote at 5:30 and asks if it’s been busy and you say, “Yes, we’ve had a steady stream all day,” and he turns to his wife and says, “Yeah, all the people who don’t work.” Sigh…
Of course I’m sure there were some obnoxious comments made by Democrats, but I’m an obnoxious Democrat (the worst kind too – total bleeding heart liberal), so if there were I didn’t notice.
What was great though, and what Dave and I enjoyed most about working the polls, was watching the pride and pure joy that people seemed to get from voting. Everyone was in a good mood. We were lucky because even though we were consistently busy all day, nobody ever had to wait very long. But if they did, they really didn’t seem to mind. Some people came to the wrong polling place and weren’t upset when we directed them to another one. And truly, the best moments were seeing someone vote for the first time. Families came in together to bring their son or daughter to the pole to vote for the first time and had them pose for pictures with their “I voted” sticker. Naturalized citizens came to the polls excited to cast their first ballot in their newly adopted country.
Sometimes it actually choked me up. It made me proud to be an American. (Even when those first-time voters were registered as Republicans.)
It made me think that I might actually do this again in four more years.
(Hey, why not…)