November 09, 2005

I Single-Handedly SAVE DEMOCRACY!

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4:45 so that I could go to work at the polls for our statewide special election. After a brief stop at our local donut shop for a dozen donuts (I asked my mom, who'd worked innumerable elections when I was a kid, if she had any advice, and she said "bring snacks"), I drove off to the Abbott residence in Yorba Linda.

My position for the day was 'Inspector' (versus the more lowly 'Clerk'), which meant that I was in charge of everything that went on at that polling place for the day I'd picked up the election materials the previous Saturday, would drop off the sealed results at a local police station at 9:30 that night, and inbetween was responsible for answering everybody's questions, telling my fellow workers what to do, and handling abnormal situations as they came up during the course of the day.

There wasn't much need for telling my fellow workers what to do, as they both fit snugly in the middle of the typical poll-worker demographic retired women who'd been doing this for years and years. While we had a pretty steady stream of voters throughout the day, things could get pretty slow outside of our rush periods (poll opening, poll closing, lunchtime, and I-just-got-off-of-work time), which left these women plenty of time to compare their various diseases and afflictions and when they ran out of those, their husbands' medical maladies, and then their sons' and daughters'. Woman A had suffered two strokes in the past year or so. Her husband had the tremors had the tremors real bad. Woman B had some kind of bone-wasting disease don't worry, it's under control now! that left her wearing a foot brace and walking with a cane. Her daughter had breast cancer but that was under control, too which left her in better shape than Woman B's indeterminate female relative, who had the liver cancer. Took her right away. Well, better that she went that way than suffered like Woman A's mother, who was fit and spry until the day she died at 94, but who had the dementia "we always said that it was such a shame that she was gone before she was gone".

And so forth. I swear that this went on for about an hour, by the end of which I was inventing imaginary diseases and afflictions for myself in my head, so that I could break into the discussion if need be perhaps I would discuss the gout that bothers me so much on those long cold winter evenings ("the doctors just don't know how to treat it anymore, you know ..."), that time I got scurvy back during the Peninsular Campaign in ought-six ("I still get a twinge whenever I run my tongue over where those teeth used to be, you know ..."), or the case of dropsy I contracted after I was bitten by a tse-tse fly during that stupid, stupid vacation trip we took to the Congo back in '54.

The election itself went pretty smoothly. Our biggest difficulty throughout the day came in talking senior citizens who weren't used to using computers and didn't like computers through the intricacies of using our computerized voting machines. Given that I couldn't touch a voter's voting machine or look at their ballot after they'd started to vote, this called for some adroit psychic powers on my part, trying to figure out exactly what it was that a voter was doing when confronted with statements like "I try to vote yes on this one, but everytime I try, it just jumps backwards to the very first one" stretching what could have been a thirty-second explanation if I just could have looked at the machine into a fifteen-minute melodrama.

Much to my surprise, we only had one person who, upon learning that you don't need to present an ID to vote, made a bitter comment about all those illegal immigrants who'd be coming to the polls. South County is slipping ...

For me, the day's tragedy was in the number of people who brought 'slate' postcards along with them to the polls. You know, the things that have been clogging up your mailbox for weeks paid glossy postcards in which a particular special interest group, through the use of appropriate political imagery and a deceptive title, tries to hook into your ideological leanings and con you into voting YES or NO for their particular proposition of interest.

  • "The 'Join Arnold' Voter's Guide"!
  • "Your Official Republican Voter's Guide"!
  • "The Official Democrat's Voter's Guide"!
  • "The Californians Allied For Progress and Democracy Voter's Guide"!
  • "The Firefighters, Teachers, and Nurses Allied For Public Safety Voter's Guide"!
  • "The Vote Our Way Or We Crush This Dewy-Eyed Kitten Voter's Guide"!

Okay, I definitely made the last one up ... and I'm not too sure about the titles of most of the others. But I was amazed by the pure junk that people would uncritically carry along with them into the voting booth such as the woman holding the "Join Arnold" (not my cup of tea, but different strokes for different folks) 'voter's guide' that actually advised her to vote NO on all of the 'Arnold' propositions ... but told her to vote YES on Proposition 78, the prescription-drug amendment sustained by tens of millions of Big Pharma dollars. Take a moment to think about it, and the illogic and bias of that particular postcard should have been immediately apparent but it had a big picture of a smiling Arnold, an American flag, and a GOP elephant, and that was all she needed to know.

Ever stop to wonder about why this special election cost our fair state so much? I'll be that the answer must lie somewhere between this incredible piece of jewelry that each poll worker got (pin soon to be highly collectible, I'm sure) and the big money ($70!) that I was pulling down to be an Inspector ...
Posted by Kevin at November 9, 2005 10:52 PM