Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It was a long day

I arrived at the the village polling place (which also happens to be the library-familiar territory) at 6:30 yesterday morning, ready to roll as a new poll worker (or "election inspector" as we are officially known in Wisconsin). At 7:00 the polls opened and there was already a short line of people waiting.

Barb, the other "newbie", and I started out at the registration table. During the course of the day we rotated to other positions - staffing the voting machine/ballot box, processing absentee ballots, checking voter rolls. But most of the time I was doing registration.

The morning saw steady traffic. There was a lull from about 1:00-2:30 then things picked up steadily. From 5:00 - 7:00 things piled up a bit, and some people waited up to 1/2 hour, then traffic dropped way off with the last voter appearing about 7:45. At 8:00 the polls closed and by 9:00 the votes were counted. I left about 9:15.

During the day we had one observer from the county Democratic Party. She didn't stay long, I think just verified that things were going smoothly and that proper procedures were being followed. We also had an auditor from the state, checking to see that we met accessibility requirements. On the whole, we did. She made a couple of recommendations (but what auditor can leave a site without suggesting something - that's her job).

We did a lot of registrations. Most of these were really not new voters: they were folks who had moved or who hadn't voted since the last presidential election and were either unaware of or hadn't bothered with the "new" requirement. (Up until two years ago all you had to do in this area was show up at the polls and sign in with your address). There were new voters, too, young people mostly, which made me happy. The one that made me happiest, though, was a lovely women, probably in her thirties, who had just become a citizen within the last month. She was so thrilled to be casting her first vote, dressed up as if she were going to church or an important job interview, brought every sort of documentation imaginable because you knew she wasn't going to take any possible chance that she wouldn't have the right thing with her.

Election law in Wisconsin is basically pro-voter, tending to give every possible opportunity for a qualified person to cast a vote. Still, we had to turn three people away from the registration table because they were unable to document current residence. It made me feel bad, but when you wait until the last possible moment, and haven't informed yourself of the really quite minimal requirements, there isn't much (anything) that the election inspectors can do.

This is a very white, in many ways very traditional, small rural community: mostly Norwegian and Swiss with a scattering of Irish and German, tending middle aged to elderly. But among the voters were two naturalized citizens: one originally from Peru and the other from Korea. There was a bi-racial lesbian couple. There were young couples who brought their babies and preschoolers. There were guys with their arms covered with tattoos. There were college students who came home to stand in line with their folks, and seniors who came in on their way to the lunch program held in the Legion Hall just across the parking lot. This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like. It made me so damn proud.


CatBookMom said...

>>>This is what democracy looks like. This is what America looks like. It made me so damn proud.<<<

Yes! California had record-breaking turnout, since 1976 or thereabouts. You can't register at the polls here, last day was 2 weeks ago. While I was in the library yesterday, the two women behind me had taken their daughters to vote, such a great beginning. We had the MSNBC map up on the laptop all evening, so fascinating to get the county-by-county details.

Blessings on you for contributing to this election in such a personal way.

magnusmog said...

What a great way to take part in the election process - it feels like good time to be here :)