Dayvid Figler, Poll Observer: Part Two
I presume there is much to learn from Poll Observing. Looming and lurking all day over a single election site. Watching with great concentration, I presume I’m ready to form irrefutable, important conclusions off the actions of poll workers and voters alike. Um, eh….
One thing I can say with absolute certainty, though, is that voters do NOT GIVE A FUCK about what they wear to vote. Red pants. Bright yellow hat. Crocs. Shirt festooned with flower petals. Purple silk jacket. And yes, that was one lady. There were worse.
Oh, my little polling place. Three fierce, but relatively tiny precincts bound together by geographic convenience. In the end, only 490 votes out of the million statewide were cast at my spot – but oh, what a spot – the St. Simeon Serbian Orthodox Church (located a scant couple of miles due west of the (mostly) fabulous Las Vegas Strip). At 6:30 AM I arrived. Election manuals, blank paperwork, checklists and snacks in hand*.
So yeah, it was in a church. Got it, separation of church and state, right right, but it worked just fine despite being greeted by this guy (Serbian priest?). A multipurpose room with a stage upon which to perch. At opening bell (7 AM) – there were about 30 people crowded in line for eight high-tech voting machines. My “Victory Counsel” partner (an attorney from California named Charles in specifically for this), took to the outside to watch for bullies and bastards. And go!
First issue came up within seconds. Voter didn’t know her precinct and didn’t want to wait to inquire. Stormed out. She looked Republican, if one can really tell – actually every bright-and-early voter in the room looked Republican. So old, so white, so tight jawed, so high-waisted with the pants. Nonetheless, I followed the directive and signaled Charles to inquire of this potential voter what we could do to get her voting. Unfortunately storm-mode meant blow-by.
The polling site did well hustling folks through (of all ages and backgrounds eventually) and that stayed constant. Never a wait longer than 5 minutes, if that. Some showed up at the wrong polling place – no biggie. The election staff (in accordance with the law) gave the proper addresses. Awesome. And if people proclaimed they wanted to vote anyhow. Easy. Provisional ballot.
A provisional ballot means the vote MIGHT not count. It ONLY gets counted in a close race, and then only if the in-the-wrong-place person verifies their registration prior to the following Friday. For a second, a poll worker discouraged people to do it with a languid “you can, but it doesn’t count.” No, no, no. Maybe doesn’t count, but possibly does. I whisper to the team leader of the election workers, he makes a fix. 17 provisional ballots were cast at my site. Solid work.
Another issue came when a poll worker began directing people to determine correct precinct. After doing it right (read: innocuously), she landed on expeditious (but possibly alienating) crutch of: “show your ID to the girl next to me.” Under Nevada law an ID is unnecessary to vote and asking for one is arguably oppressive (or it could lead to bad rumors coming out of the polling location). Whisper. Fix. Done.
A third (non)issue came with the three people who showed up in Obama T-shirts. They were gently scolded for improper electioneering (right call), but not disallowed from voting (also correct). Observed. Not officially noted.
The day was broken up by a group of visiting German journalists (Germalists? Journmanlists?) with questions like: what are you observing (I had a pink “OBSERVER” sticker on my shirt), and CAN WE TOUCH THE VOTING MACHINES? The elections people were in charge and gave a righteous, “Um, no!” Disappointed, they left. (Strangely, no one thought of the hypothetical “Should we let foreigners fiddle with the voting machines?” at the seminar).
Finally, as Obama intel had discerned, Romney folks weren’t doing the poll observing we were. Now and again, though, two Romney supporters (announced by their arrival in a BMW SUV with a Romney/Ryan bumper sticker) would pop in, sit near me, text (a no-no), look around, then leave. This happened about three times; ten minutes per visit. To what end I can’t figure. If it was to be disruptive, it was a failure; if it was to actually observe – same thing. Maybe a catch-up for a campaign in Nevada that didn’t seem to prioritize these bells and whistles like Obama.
And that was my 13-hour day. Check out 7:30 PM. Finalized paperwork. Day’s observations called into boiler room. Election workers thanked. Out. Did we save the day? Nuh-uh. Maybe empower a voter to actually, ya know, vote and maybe do it again? Yeah, probably. Did it (or those provisional ballots) matter given the results? Of course not. But as promised I did the least I could do and for what it's worth, it actually felt…important. Also, in lurking, I did observe a lot of women (some dressed quite nicely) leaning forward and signing their names to check into the polling place. Now, how do I get those three continuing education credits?
* snacks: one pack almonds, one roll Life Savers, one Cloverhill individually wrapped blueberry muffin, one Starbucks Espresso Double shot in a can, one large Capriotti’s turkey sandwich, four bottles water