How I did my part to help Republicans win in Texas (confessions of an Obamadillo)
For the last couple or three days, I have been sitting here mostly wondering if that gurgling noise is coming from my lungs or the vaporizer. There has been no "thrill of victory or agony of defeat", just the trudging through the day one does when hosting the viruses of the cold from hell.
The bug attacked over the weekend, even before the mass election worker training.
Still, on Tuesday morning, I was up and at 'em to be at Tarrant County Election Headquarters at 06:00, where I reported for duty as an emergency election clerk. We were the unassigned, yet willing, fresh from three hours of training over the weekend and ready to do our bit to guarantee a fair, legal and problem-free election.
Armed with snacks and two thermos bottles filled with tea, I was prepared for the call to duty. It was at this point I discovered I had forgotten to bring a book to read. It should have served as an omen.
The large screens at the front of the room onto which presentation slides had been shown Saturday were now filled with the Today show. National news teams reported lines around the block at some voting places. Locally, reporters stood in front of voting places talking about the crowds which were expected but so far had failed to materialize.
At first, there were calls for help, but mostly for bilingual Spanish/English speakers; each precinct is required to have one. By 09:00, It was just us and the Today show. As Kathie Lee Gifford and some other woman started yakking about the election and arts and crafts or some such thing, a warning sign blinked on the screen. saying - "Auto Cutoff Initiated". We applauded an AV system with such taste as the screens went blank.
Shortly before noon, they started drafting us as runners to take supplies out to the precincts. I was given a map, a stack of signs and a hearty farewell in exchange for my name and mobile phone number. I headed out to an area senior citizens center.
When I arrived, I saw the one public door in sight already had posted on it one of the signs which I was delivering. I went inside. Many nice elderly ladies smiled as they looked up from their lunches. One relatively younger woman came toward me.
"May I help you?" she asked.
"I am looking for the election judge," I said.
"We don't have one," she responded. "I'm as close as we get."
That was all I wanted to know. Actually, that was more than I wanted to know. I was but a messenger.
"I was told to deliver these signs," I said, holding the stack out to her.
"I told them I didn't need any signs," she said, refusing my stack and walking to the door. She opened the door and pointed to the sign.
"I already have one up," she said. "I told them that. Why did they feel they had to send me more?"
I took that as a rhetorical question. At any rate, I did not want to answer it as I had no idea what the answer was and I did not want to open what appeared to be an open-ended line of discourse.
"Well," I managed to say, "why don't you just keep these? I was told to deliver them, and you can call headquarters."
I pushed the stack of signs into her arms and heded straight for the door. I briskly walked toward the car, not looking back. As soon as the door shut, it dawned on me she might have been asking for a helper. If she called HQ and told them that, they had my mobile phone number. My only chance was to make tracks as quickly as I could before any calls were to send me back.
On the way back, I whipped in to grab a quick bean burrito to go. That wasn't enough. So, when I got back, I pulled out the snacks and nibbled on them for awhile. When I returned to the collection area, I discovered someone had brought us cheeseburgers and fries. All my healthy eating went down the drain as I succumbed to the cheeseburger (I did pass on the fries). As soon as I finished, two women came by with a large two-shelf cart filled with box lunches. I passed.
There we were. We were more than amply fed. We were stuffed and bored. Martha Stewart came on the screens. Obviously, someone had bypassed the auto cutoff system that had saved us from Kathie Lee. Maybe the AV system was bored as well and was having a go with us.
When the call came for clerks at a church near my home turf, I quickly volunteered. Three of us were dispatched. None of us had done this before. None of knew where we were going. However we all managed to arrive at about the same time and report for duty.
First, we were sworn in and signed the pay sheet. We were briefed on the procedure. We were turned loose on the unsuspecting voters.
For the most part, it was easy as could be. I soon lost my trainer and I was checking in all the people with last names "I" through "N" single-handedly. The line moved smoothly, if I do say so myself.
Those who bring their voter registration cards are the darlings of election clerks. We just copy the information down from the card and have them sign the rolls. Those without are not that much more trouble. You have to look up the name and copy the information from a list. It slows down the process a wee bit.
Then there are those who have a different address. There's a form for them. There's also a form for those whose names have changed since they registered (we had one woman and one man at my station; they were unrelated but both had name changes). However, if their name was not on the list, there was nothing to do but send them to the dreaded "Table Four".
Table Four, in essence, was the dead registration office, just as the postal service has the dead letter office. In many cases, there is nothing to do but say - "sorry". However, you can cast provisional ballots if you think you should have been on the list and that there has been a cock up somewhere. These ballots are set aside. If the voter can validated, the ballots are counted. If not, the non-voter is sent a letter explaining why.
The hardest part of my day was sending people to Table Four. In most cases, it was first-time voters who probably had misread instructions. You knew that they were just about to have all their enthusiasm swatted out of their excited bodies and it saddened me. However, some of the older and more combative ones I was glad to hand over to Table Four for judgment. That table got all kinds, including a Canadian citizen who said he had a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said he could vote in U.S. elections (he left disappointed).
A lot of the things you remember are the small things. Blurting out something and remembering this polling place was in the sanctuary of a church. The way the kids who accompanied their parents would eye the bowl of candy we had on the table (none of the kids took without being offered; it was different for the adults). Seeing the woman sent to help me snicker as I am trying to find someplace to look while the woman with the lowcut top bends over to sign the register. That same snickering woman asking a woman if her son would like some candy only to be informed it was her daughter (I comforted her that the kid was out of earshot when it occurred, and didn't mention that the older sister was right there and an evil grin spread across her face).
We were very lucky in the respect that this precinct was filled with early voters. We had no last minute crowds of any magnitude. We had no long line at closing. We had no people rush up only to be told they missed the deadline. We were very fortunate.
All this time, I knew most of these folks were Republicans and were voting against my team right and left. Well, more right than left, obviously. I(t was a no-brainer that John McCain was going to take Texas. There was not going to be any big shift in the U.S. House or Senate based on Texas Democrats unseating Republicans (at least not in our neck of the woods).
However, none of that mattered. We had people of at least two parties on our team at that church. We left our partisanship at the door. Our job was to make certain everyone who was qualified could vote did vote and even provide the benefit of the doubt to those who might or might not be eligible.
It was all about democracy and not about Democrats. We were preserving the republic, not the Republicans. We were making sure our fellow citizens got to exercise the greatest benefit allowed them in this nation.
It felt good, although I was spent by the end of the day and fading fast into total croupiness, sniffling, sneezing and snorting. Yes, I admit I did take some solace that there would be some Republicans feeling the same way as I was in a few days.
It still felt good to do good.
Most Recommended Comment
Columbia, South Carolina, United States