I worked my first election in Harris County, Texas back in 1992, when my Man and I were approached by a fellow homeschool mom who I later found out served, with her husband, as the county chairman. We did not know, when we both agreed to do our Civic Duty, that it was actually a paying job. Not a big paying job, but still. When one is unemployed, as my Man was at the time, any pay is more than no pay. Since then I have worked at elections of all sorts ~ city elections, special elections, runoff elections, primary elections, presidential elections, off-year elections, school board elections, you-name-the elections ~ both as a clerk and as a judge.
Whatever one’s capacity, Election Day is one l-o-n-g day, beginning long before dawn and ending long after dark. Some elections, such as the Presidential election, are much more popular than others, but whichever it is, and no matter how un/popular it may be, you can just rest assured that somebody is going to be there well before opening time to whine about something:
- The door wasn’t unlocked until three seconds after 7:00a.m;
- The yellow sheet wasn’t posted;
- The VOTE sign is sagging at the corner;
- The distance markers aren’t exactly at 100 feet;
- This voter didn’t get a card in the mail;
- That voter’s mother is on oxygen and can’t make it to the poll, so she is being disenfranchised;
- The other voter wasn’t told who was on the ballot;
- The next voter doesn’t speak English, and an Urdu interpreter hasn’t been provided.
You might think all elections are equally easy/hard to hold, but you would be wrong. City and school board elections are usually easy ones, because only the most dutiful and informed citizenry are even aware of those. Presidential elections, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat hazardous, particularly when there is a hotly contested or polarizing competition. Voters who have never seen the inside of a polling place come out for those, and they all have “issues.“
If I had to choose the hardest/worst election to work, it would be, no contest, the Primary. That’s because that is the election where the most uninformed show up. All they know for sure is that they have rights: the right to vote, the right to have a ballot in their language, the right not to have to wait in line, things like that. Conspicuously missing is their duty to educate themselves, and they are often ignorant as to what is at stake and/or how the system works. This results in a whole lot of clueless voters, who, when asked if they wish to vote Republican or Democrat, lose not a moment unleashing a torrent of abuse and foul language on the poor miscreant who dares to inquire.
“WHAT do you mean??? You can‘t ask me THAT!!! How DARE you infringe on my right to privacy! That is NONE of YOUR BUSINESS!!! I have the right to a secret ballot!!! Where’s the complaint number??? I’m going to report you!!!” Etc.
Well, Primary Election Day, 2010 wasn’t any different. We had the usual assortment of righteously indignant voters who threatened not to vote if we made them divulge their party affiliation, but only one or two actually made good on their promise. And then there were those in the wrong precinct who heaped outrage upon us for trying to direct them to the right one. There were the requisite two or three illiterates who had to have the ballot read to them, and don’t forget the few who found it too difficult to get out of the car and had to have a ballot taken to them outside. Add to that two election workers who nearly came to blows. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Until…
Enter the voting Nazi (Am I allowed to use that word without being offensive to somebody?). In all my years of working elections, this lady was a first. My first thought was how much she reminded me of one of my children’s piano teachers. But I was quickly disabused of that notion.
She wore a pencil-skirted business suit and stiletto heels, and hair pulled severely back into a braid that was clipped onto the top of her head. In her left hand she carried a wallet/planner/something-or-other, and with her right hand she shook hands with everyone in the room, showing off her badge as she introduced herself. She made sure we alllll knew she was a special officer from Fort Hood who did background investigations for top secret clearances (Hmmm….Is that really something you go around advertising?).
“Rep or Dem?” we asked.
“I’ll take Dem,” she crisply informed us. “I’m not going to vote like everyone else.” And away she clicked across the freshly polished faux-wood floor to the corner of the room where the *e* voting machine was set up.
But almost immediately she was back. And she was frantic. There was only one person she specifically wanted to vote for. He had told her she could vote for him! But he wasn’t on the Dem ballot! And that’s when she bothered to look at the Rep ballot (which was prominently displayed on the wall next to the door, but which neither she, nor anybody else, had ever bothered to look at). Lo and behold, there was her man, and oh-so-fortunately, she had not yet hit the *enter* button on her ballot, so we were able to cancel her Dem ballot and give her a Rep one. That was our one-and-only canceled ballot of the day.
Off she scurried again with her ballot, presumably the right one this time, and she soon came back to our table, once again securely in possession of all her self-confident persona, for another round of smiles, head-bowing, hand-shaking, and “thank you’s” to each of us for doing our civic duty.
So in case you’ve ever put any faith in our “Democratic Process” or in our duly elected leaders, or in those who elect them for that matter, you may want to reconsider. Sometimes I think we would do just as well with a roll of the dice…a crap shoot, so to speak.