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Adventures in Poll Checking...and Donut Delivering

November 4th, 2008 (06:28 pm)
nervous

current mood: nervous

I spent much of today volunteering at the polls for Democratic party. My job was something called an "Indoor Poll Checker." Each party is allowed up to two indoor poll checkers (and one lawyer) inside each polling place at any given time. Election rules strictly regulate who is allowed inside a polling place, so I couldn't go in without an official letter from the local party chair stating that I was certified to be working there.

I had no idea any of this process even existed until they asked me last week if I would do it. I found the whole thing fascinating. The idea is to keep track of who is voting so each party can check the list of who has already cast a ballot against its own A-List of people identified as most likely to vote for its candidate. As the day wears on, if those people have not showed up at the polls, the party can call to offer them a ride or encouragement or whatever help they need to get them to the polls. So the indoor checkers listen as the election workers call out the name of each voter. Then we either write down the name or check it off a list from the party. The lists of who has voted are periodically passed outside to the "outside poll checkers" (and one lawyer), who reconcile the different lists and, by e-mail, send the names of those who haven't voted to locations where volunteers are poised to make calls or canvass in neighborhoods. At the same time, some of the inside people are also keeping track of how many people are voting altogether, just to make sure the voting stays honest and the numbers add up as they should.

My son had a half-day of school today, 10 a.m. to 2:30, so I told the party they could have me from 10 to 2. During that time I worked at two different polling places. Temple Beth El was very busy. The lines were long enough so that the election workers were periodically told to stop signing people in so that the lines at the booths wouldn't get too long to fit in the room. Then we'd have to stop for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes and wait for the voting booth lines to go down. Most people were in high spirits and were good sports about it. It was a little stressful for the workers because it was pretty crazy in there, but those who'd been working all day said this was nothing; it had been much, much busier during the morning rush hour.

When I was finished there, I had a little extra time before I had to get to the other polling place where I was scheduled, so I did a food run for the campaign's outside poll checkers and other workers. Then I headed over to George Washington Middle School, which is the polling place for my own precinct. My husband had voted there on his way to work this morning and said he'd waited in line about an hour, which wasn't too bad. But when I was there, from 1 p.m to 2 p.m., it wasn't busy at all. The lines were seldom more than a few minutes long; sometimes there were no lines at all. Speculation was that our precinct is so politically active that hundreds of us voted early because we'd be working at the polls or volunteering on Election Day. Informal conversations I've had with others in my neighborhood seem to bear this out. During the hour that I worked, only TWO voters came in who were not on my list. In other words, we're not only an overwhelmingly Democratic precinct, but we're overwhelmingly on the Democrat's A-List of people with records of donating to or volunteering for candidates, attending caucuses, and voting in primaries. In 2004 our precinct went something like 90% for Kerry.

I had to head home, then, to meet my first-grader's school bus. When he got home, he wanted to go to Krispy Kreme, which was giving away free donuts to anyone with an "I voted" sticker. We did, and we bought an extra dozen donuts so that he could help deliver me them to a polling place for the volunteers and other workers there.

Tonight I'd love to go to one of the official Democratic party return-watching events. But with a first-grader at home, that's just not going to happen. So my husband and I will watch at home tonight. He says he plans to drink heavily, whether in celebration or in misery! I SO hope it's in celebration.