Thursday, November 09, 2006

Poll watching

I decided this year to take my role as a citizen more seriously. I joined DFA and I financially supported a handful of Congressional Candidates and signed up to be a poll watcher for the Sestak camp. With the shenanigans that have been reported in previous elections I figured that I would be useful in this role.

When I woke up at 5:45am, I questioned my desire to save the country. "I can't believe I agreed to this" I mumbled to myself.

I grabbed a large cup of coffee from Dunkin Donuts and a couple of newspapers. Our community had become so polarized I was not sure how I would be received. What shenanigans would I have to deal with? How would I respond? Too much to obsess about at such an ungodly hour.

I arrived at the local library at 6:10am. My neighbors were busy assembling the booths and performing the preliminary checks. I presented my official poll watcher certificate to the Judge. Introduced myself to the other volunteers, ran through the procedures and settled in.

I was a rookie. The more senior volunteers were old enough to be my grandparents. I am sure that I brought the median age down to 82. They shared with me the anticipated stretches of down time. In addition to my newspapers, I had my blackberry to deal with possble boredom.

Boy were we wrong. From the time the polls opened at 7 am until my shift ended at 6 pm, we barely had enough time to breathe. We were averaging 55 voters per hour. Everyone was stunned.

The drama was kept to a minmum. I was one of two Democratic poll watchers. The rest were Republicans. But we worked together to get our neighbors through the process. We did not have an electronic system or the dreaded chads. Our ballots were scanned.

Only a couple of folks showed up at the wrong location. The Judge was helpful in redirecting them.

What surprised me was the turnout of young and first time voters. They came with their parents or their friends. That did my heart good. It was an event.

The only thing that people complained about were the calls. They simply wanted them to end. One lady who appeared to be a doctor or nurse, said that her voicemail had 40 calls after a twelve hour shift. She looked more perplexed than annoyed.

According to some reports our precint had a 56% turnout from the living registered voters. Not bad for a mid-term election.
BUT where was everyone else?

Young people historically sit on the sidelines, turned out. They are paying attention. The state of affairs is their problem. Good for them. Good for us.

Poll watching was exhausting but I am glad that I did it.

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