Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Long Day's Journey Into Voting

Yesterday's primary election was my first experience as a poll worker. Despite the grueling 15-hour day (in addition to the three-hour training session), I really enjoyed helping people vote and interacting with the many interesting people who live in my town, a largely prosperous, racially diverse suburb. Most of the voters here are Democrats, though there was the cranky man who requested a Republican ballot “so I can offset both Hillary and Obama.” Then again, someone wrote me recently that he's a registered Republican who will vote for "Mr. Obahama" because he's "tired of this country trying to be the world's cop," and he thinks Obama can help change "the perception of being the biggest and baddest country." Primaries are interesting.

Neary everyone was warm and personable, save the occasional voter angered because he had to vote a provisional ballot (provisional is electionese, I believe, for "uncounted"). The young person working near me, with no historical memory of stolen elections or voter disenfranchisement, had no trouble demanding of each voter, "May I see your proper identification?" but my lefty heart cringed a little at the new ID requirements. “Who would come and pretend to be someone else?” the aforementioned cranky voter asked me. I shrugged.

(Voter fraud is a Republican-created myth. An article by Art Levine for the American Prospect says, "Voter fraud is actually less likely to occur than lightning striking a person, according to data compiled by New York University's Breenan Center for Justice." Read the article here.)

My favorite voter was a lady of a certain age who shimmered in, dressed in a smart vintage fur coat, furry boots and very soigné hat. She looked like Marilyn Monroe, still radiant at age seventy. Outside, there was freezing rain, but she announced in a sweet, piping voice, “I walked all the way here to vote for Mr. Obama.” I told her I was sure Mr. Obama would appreciate it.

After the polls closed, tempers flared among a few of the exhausted workers as they tried to complete the necessary paperwork before going home to get some sleep.

It was a long haul and a lot of work, but I felt privileged to be part of it.

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