Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Poll Watching on Historic Day

This is an historic night as the United States ends the Bush era in a big way and just as significantly, demonstrates that while racism still exists, it's significance is reduced to the point where a majority of Americans can vote for an African-American candidate. Things haven't been officially called for Obama, but enough key states have gone his way that I can't see how Obama could lose. I'll save other comments on this incredible change in the United States' ability to go beyond race and the potential we know have to regain our status as a country the rest of the world looks up to. Meanwhile I'll tell you about my day as a poll watcher.

I was at the 'staging area' (someone's basement) at 6:40am and at the polling place at 6:50am in time for the starting of voting at 7am. It was dark when I got there and it wasn't clear where the polling place was. This picture on the left I took when I was leaving at 4:30pm and they had put up some signs. Still, it was hard to see. There was also a sign up on the street by the time I left(see bottom picture).

I had several jobs:

1. Keep track of the likely Democratic voters. I had a list of voters who were expected to vote Democratic and my job was to mark them off on three identical lists. The first list was to be picked up at 9:30am, the second one at 1:30pm, and the third one at 4:30pm. The lists, as I understood it, were to be used to call people who hadn't voted yet.

2. Report problems with voting - people turned down, overly long lines, machine problems, etc.

When I got there, about 30 people were in line, waiting for the polls to officially open at 7am. Once that initial crowd got handled, there were never more than four or five in line and most of the time there was no wait. But most of the time things were moving along briskly and the voting booths were busy all day.

The election workers were great. They were very friendly, made things as easy for me as possible, and were on top of any problems before I even knew about them.

No one came to pick up the 9:30am list. Nor did anyone come at 1:30pm, including my replacement. So I stayed. One problem came up with the voting machine about 4pm. Apparently, someone had dropped a ballot on the floor and it picked up a chunk of de-icing salt which got caught in the shute and so the ballots couldn't go in. They started putting them into the side box to be counted after they closed the polls. But Richard who was monitoring the machine was able to get the salt chunk cleared out and voters could put their ballots through the shute again and they could get counted.

The voting at our polling place was running much lower than one might have expected. By the time I left - my replacement came about 4:30pm - only about 25% had voted. (That doesn't count people who had voted early or absentee or had questioned ballots.) Of those who voted, about 40% were on my list which seemed like a good sign. There was no Republican poll watcher.

I'd left a message on our home phone to let J know I was still there and not sure when or if I'd get relieved. She showed up with a bag of goodies about 3:30. Do I have a great wife? And we left at 4:30, when I took the two outdoor pictures. And since we were across the street from the Thai Kitchen and they were about to open, we stopped there for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. i can't help thinking it's awesome that there has been such long lines all over... people taking a greater interest in public issues is always a good thing


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