category: Politics

Election Day 2008

Last week, I worked as an election official for the fifth year (and the eighth time, I think). The precinct where I worked edged just slightly towards Obama. Voter turnout was good – turnout the day of was about 57% of registered voters with another 20% having voted absentee. That 20% absentee is what made the day somewhat surprising.

When I arrived at 5am, there were already people camped out waiting to vote. They’d been there since 4, apparently. We opened the doors at 6 and for the next 90 minutes, people poured in. The traffic patterns were odd: the line for last names beginning with H to O (yes, that led to about 800 comments about “H2O” and one “HO. I guess that’s my line!”) would be 30 deep when the other two lines were literally empty. Yet, the A-G book had the most people come through by day’s end.

By 7:30am, the traffic had dwindled significantly. Around 10am, another small rush hit for about 30 minutes. We all waited for the next rush to come. But it never did. Not at lunch. Not at 5pm. Not right before closing. The rest of the day was people trickling in little by little. Sometimes 30 minute stretches would go by where one section of the alphabet wouldn’t have a single person come through. It was amazing how slow it was.

Paperwork was filled out and we were headed home by 9:30pm, which is really good. Only one small vote tally issue, but we got that straightened out without too much trouble. It was a really simple day. A little disappointing, in that respect, really.

I usually have stories about weird people that came through, but this time there was only one person worth noting. Of course, it was someone I had to deal with. It was a woman who’d come to the wrong school to vote, a common mistake because there are two schools right next to each other for people in neighboring sections of the town. But when I told her she’d have to go across the parking lot to the other school to vote, she was livid. “It’s absurd that being one school off matters! Why can’t I just vote here?” I showed her the precinct map, explained it calmly, and she still stormed out. I’m guessing that she went home rather than driving 30 seconds to the adjacent school.

And that, my friends, was Election Day 2008.

(Previous election day recaps: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

A (very) brief political statement…

I had something significant written up about Obama’s victory, but I decided to save it rather than post it. So I’ll just say that for the first time in many, many years, I feel like something positive might actually happen in Washington. It’ll be really interesting to see how the flickr/Twitter/Facebook-aware Government 2.0 changes the way the political machine runs over the next four years.

Fist bump=terrorist

Never has FOX “News” come across as more out-of-touch. Funny thing: this video would have seemed “out-of-touch” five years ago.

The Candidates on Medical Marijuana

There’s a great set of videos of the presidential candidates coming face-to-face with individuals whose use of medical marijuana is keeping them alive (or people asking questions on their behalf). They’re asked for their position on medical marijuana and whether or not they support raids on those using it ("Would you arrest me and my doctors?").Here’s a quick rundown on how they respond:

  • Clinton: Could she give more of a non-answer?
  • Edwards: Smooth.
  • Dodd: Curt, but says he’d stop the raids.
  • Obama: See Dodd.
  • Gravel: "Let’s go buy it in the package store."
  • Richardson: Not for decriminalization, but acknowledges the war on drugs is a failure and explicitly supported patients who needed medical marijuana. Some of these patients were then arrested, including a paraplegic.
  • Kucinich: "Our approach to medicine has to be compassionate." Explain to me again why Kucinich is a "fringe candidate."
  • Paul: Great response.
  • Thompson: Non-answer, much like Clinton.
  • Romney: King of Supreme Dickishness. (Be sure to watch this video.)
  • Huckabee: Wouldn’t legalize. It’s not an important issue.
  • McCain: Seems irritated by even being asked the question and accuses the asker of being compensated.
  • Giuliani: Would "keep it illegal."

(If you only watch three, watch Gravel (humor), Kucinich (reason), and Romney (insanity).)

I’m in full support of giving doctors the right to prescribe marijuana for their patients (I support decriminalization of marijuana as a whole, but that’s a different post). I don’t smoke, but you don’t have to be a card-carrying NARAL hippie with a subscription to High Times (no dis, some of my best friends are card-carrying NARAL hippies with a subscriptions to High Times) to understand that this isn’t a matter of politics or criminal activity. It’s a matter of helping people who are sick, period.

I know a number of people that use marijuana for medicinal purposes and I can say with some degree of confidence that at least one of them would have died if he didn’t use the marijuana. No chance I’d ever support a candidate who would look the other way when people are dying just because he or she is worried about marijuana being a "gateway drug."

So, obviously I’ll be support Mitt Romney. I love the guy.

Kucinich on fire

Wow… Dennis was on fire in the last debate, wasn’t he? Check out this compilation of his responses. The top two moments: calling Wolf on his use of the term “illegal immigrants” and at 5:30, which just needs to be seen.

Election Day 2007 Recap

This entry was 90% written the day following election day, but here I am nearly a week later, finally posting it. Perhaps I should give up on any hope of being timely with my posts again.

As usual with the first Tuesday in November, I was up at 4am to work yesterday’s election. It was another long day–I didn’t get home until 9:30pm–and it started off dark, cold, windy, and rainy. Seems fitting, in some ways.

This year, we had a number of important state and local seats up. Locally, Loudoun took a surprisingly Democratic turn with a number of Republican incumbents unexpectedly unseated. And thankfully, the one race I was most interested in went the way I had hoped (certain readers will know which one I mean). But I’m not here to talk about politics… I just wanted to share some stories and thoughts about last week’s election in my precinct.

For the most part, there were no major issues. Our optical voting machine didn’t start properly and required a technician, but that was about the extent of it. We had a single touch-screen system in place and it was used by about 25% of the voters. Voter turnout in my precinct was in the 33% range, exceeding county-wide expectations. Still, only about half of the turnout we’ll get next year for the presidential race.

Here are a few stories I thought I’d share about my sixth (I think?) time working the polls.

Electronic Voting Haters

Here’s the thing: I agree with the people that announced that they weren’t going to use the touch-screen voting system because it has a history of being hackable and doesn’t produce a paper trail. On election day, of course, I can’t say that.

But, folks, why are you announcing it loudly to the election officials when you’re politely asked if you’d like to use the paper ballot or the touch-screen? It only makes you look like a self-important douche who just likes to hear himself talk. We’re only working here for the day, for just slightly more than minimum wage. We didn’t decide to use the systems and we didn’t design them, so back off.

The I-Hate-Spanish (People and the Language) Guy

After depositing his paper ballot, one man walked past myself and another election worker and said, “Thanks for not printing my ballot in Spanish.”

This struck me as one of the most dickheaded comments a person could make. Seriously, how racist do you have to be to hate a group of people so much that you hate their language, too?

This got me to thinking a bit more about the current focus on immigration issues and the ongoing “Spanish as a second national language” debate. While the arguments behind the most aggressive wall-building anti-immigration laws and “if they live here, they should speak the language” attitudes may on the surface seem to be driven by some sort of swollen American pride, in reality, they’re in line with any historical example of unjust discrimination we’ve ever seen. They take a group of people, make them “the other,” and imply that the status quo will be ruined, our lives changed forever, and then the tables of discrimination turned on us. It’s all so tired.

John

John (a name I’m making up because I forget his real name and I probably shouldn’t use it anyway) is from Nigeria. He came to the US in 1982 and only visits home occasionally. He said that at first, it was difficult leaving home because of his brothers and sisters that he left behind. As time went on, though, he grew apart from them, so it’s not as hard to rarely see or talk to them.

Even after 25 years, some things in America are still amazing him. This was his first time working the polls in the United States and he noted early the differences with Nigerian elections. “There,” he said, “You’d go to vote and have to worry about getting shot. People running for office would kill to win.”

Later, he observed that the five-year-old elementary school we were working in was “nicer than the nicest Nigerian University.”

Tomorrow Morning

In the last minute rush of signing documents at the end of the night, I need to go back into the office tomorrow morning to sign one of the election results sheets that I somehow missed. It’s the first time such a thing has happened.

(Some previous election day recaps: 2004, 2005, 2006)

Post-Election Day Thoughts

Yesterday was my fifth (I think) time working the polls. A Pole at the Polls, I like to call it.

Turnout in our precinct was very good, just about 50% of all registered voters. This year, we still used primarily paper ballots (the kind that go into the paper-shredder looking thing) but had one Diebold touch screen machine as well.

A summary of the day, in bulleted form:

  • Only one guy looked like he might get hostile. When I told him I might need for him to fill out a short (two line) piece of paperwork before casting his ballot, he got very angry and said, “Listen, I’ve had enough of this. The last place I went to told me I was in the wrong precinct and now this? I’m 30 minutes late opening my business because of this.” No, sir, you’re 30 minutes late because you’re a dumb ass that didn’t check his polling place before coming and making sure that your information was up-to-date with the board of elections. You slowed yourself down.
  • One gentleman was wearing a McLenin’s t-shirt that featured Lenin’s head over a McDonald’s logo. The back read “The party’s over.” He told us he bought it in Moscow a couple of years ago. Apparently, the distribution trucks that were bringing the food had to be protected by armed guards because it was the only stable flow of food coming into Moscow.
  • When we handed ballots out, we asked whether voters would like a paper ballot or if they preferred to use the touch-screen. Most looked baffled, many changed their mind when they saw they’d have to wait for the touch-screen, and a few even made the choice without their heads exploding. A lot of people commented, “I’m in computer security. I’ll vote the paper ballot.” There’s a lot of awareness out there about the issues with the machines. The best comment came, though, from one gentleman who said, “I’ll take a paper ballot because I want my vote to count.” He paused and added, “My company’s going to be busy after this election.” I asked him where he worked thinking perhaps he was also in the security field. He responded, “Diebold.”
  • I got up at 4am and didn’t get home until 9:30pm. Nothing like a nice 16 1/2 hour day after 3 1/2 hours of sleep to make one feel alive!
  • This happened right in front of our house. I had picked up the car for my co-worker, who’s in Nevada, and had it parked on the street. Ben’s handling it with grace, thankfully, and not calling me out on his blog.

Now we need to change our state motto

Dearest Virginia,

Your significant approval of the gay marriage amendment makes me embarassed to be associated with you.

Love, (oh, wait, that’d be gay) Yours,
Ryan,
who just doesn’t get the whole “legislating prejudice” thing

(A post-election day entry is coming soon, free of snarky political commentary.)