Dayvid Figler, Poll Observer
It’s a bit of a lurker’s job and I feel comfortable with lurking. Especially don’t mind lurking for a cause. When an attorney friend of mine told me that attorney “Poll Observer” volunteers were needed for the projected-to-be-close swing state of Nevada she added, “it’s the least you can do.” Never one to turn down the least I can do – I enrolled in the three-hour election law training class and committed to sit and stare and observe (and lurk) on Election Day.
My training took place at the Culinary Union hall. The banner behind the speakers had the vague non-partisan sounding “Victory Counsel” on it, but there was no doubt I was in the Obama campaign’s house. This was a program designed by the Obama, with the Obama and probably (but not necessarily) for the Obama.
The overarching mission it seemed apart from noting and gently trying to stray election sites away from unlawful misconduct or incidental (or worse explicit) intimidation was to simply make sure EVERYONE who showed up to vote was able to cast a ballot – even if (potentially) that ballot would never be counted. Over and again during the training, the assembled lawyers were told: party is irrelevant, choice is irrelevant – exercising franchise is ultimate. To that end, we were empowered with a crash course on Nevada election law. Who gets to vote, when are IDs required, what constitutes a valid ID and then the hypothetical scenarios. What if a person asked for an absentee ballot and shows up anyhow? What if the police just decide to park a bunch of cop cars in the parking lot? What if an ice cream truck with a loud speaker swaps out Turkey in the Straw with Lee Greenwood? What happens if a person runs into the middle of the polling place screaming MITT ROMNEY IS A RIGHTEOUS MORMON! or OBAMA IS A MUSLIM!? (there are answers to all these questions).
My job, however, as a poll observer is not to solve them. Not to get into the middle of a dispute between a putative voter and an election worker, but to observe. Note. Lurk. Point out if appropriate. And then, above all else, report it to the Obama campaign. Now at the Obama campaign official sounding “boiler room”, they make with the hay if skullduggery is afoot or weirdness doesn’t resolve itself (like a boil?). “If you don’t know what to do – call the boiler room – even better attorneys than you are standing by.” Presumably if shit’s really going down, they’ll call the Elections commission, or the cavalry, or maybe President “O” himself. But for the most part just get the details and use your newfound knowledge of this obscure area of law to its best effect without actual intervention. Ok!
So, what did I really learn from my training? What PRACTICAL knowledge was I armed with for my Election Day adventure? Foremost, I was qualified to apply for three continuing education credits towards my yearly requirement of 12 just for sitting through the seminar. (Who says elections are meaningless?). I also figured out that if a braless woman (with no sweater handy) is wearing an Obama T-shirt, she’ll vote faster than anyone else because they’ll need to rush her through the line lest there be allegations of electioneering. Braless because she won’t be able to just whip it off and flip it inside out. I understood that whenever the letter “I” is followed by the letter “D” by a county poll worker that I’m supposed to eavesdrop what else is being said. I knew that since I was going to be there all day, I better bring my own food, but if I bring cookies, I should bring enough for all the poll workers since it's important to not alienate the people you're lurking. And finally, I recognized that 90 percent of the lawyers around me were imported from other states to keep Nevada on its toes. Apparently, not enough like-minded lawfolk in-state to staff all 264 county polling places. Oh, so that’s why a full ten minutes of the seminar was devoted to “how to pronounce Nevada so as to not alienate anyone.” Actual power point slide: “Practice this: The fat cat sat on the mat in Nevada.” (I still get my credits, right?).
Bottom line. Be courteous. Make sure everyone gets to vote. Lurk strong! Make sure no one is explicitly or implicitly or vaguely or even grazingly intimidated. No matter who they support. No matter what because the more the merrier for Obama? Or because it’s the right thing to do? We’ll see on Election Day! Oh, and the last point: we don’t think Romney is doing this….