Next Tuesday, I’ll be working the polls for election day. It’s a long day: I have to be there at 5am and they said to be ready to stay until 9:30pm (though I may be done an hour or two before that… a number of factors are involved). Workers are not allowed to leave the building, so we have to bring all our food and drink for the day.

Last night I went to the senior citizens’ center by my work to hang out and chill with my peoples for the two-hour election officer training session. A few observations:

  • Though the officers are primarily of the “over 65” set, there were a few others besides myself that looked to be from the “under 30, if just barely” set.
  • Apparently, it’s “normal” for gun rights advocates to bring their weapons to polling places in an attempt to “test” the election officers (in VA, one can have a gun in public as long as it’s not a school). She said to just play it cool and let them vote normally. Seriously, guys, there’s a place and time to “test” your rights but why a polling place filled with volunteers?

  • The whole country should use the same ballots we use. Couldn’t be simpler: fill in the oval next to the person’s name and slip the paper into the Accu-Vote. Ah, crap, Accu-Vote’s a Diebold product?. Well, none of this nonsense, at least.

15 minutes before the training officially started, one of the members of the election board for the county was chatting with people and taking some basic questions. One gentleman a few rows in front of me raised his hand and said, “Now, I don’t mean to start anything, but…” Of course, that type of phrase is similar to “I don’t mean to sound racist”/”I’m not racist, but…” where you know something ignorant is about to come out of their mouths. So the man contuned, “What if someone that doesn’t speak English comes to vote? We can’t help them because they don’t speak English and how can they be counted on to know who to vote for? This one lady sat there for 45 minutes just staring at the ballot.” Fortunately, another woman there for the training responded to him calmly, “Sir, just because someone has trouble with English doesn’t mean that they can’t read someone’s name and vote for them. When I travel to a foreign country, I can still manage to read street signs and find my way around even if I don’t speak the language.” This man seemed to do what a lot of people do: he associated not speaking English well with being stupid. If that’s the case, I’m the world’s biggest idiot because after six semesters of French in high school and college, all I can do is say curse words. Making assumptions about people based strictly on their language ability or ethnic background rarely ends well.

In any event, it seems like this should be a really interesting experience. There was a definite sense of excitement in the air last night and seeing the inner-workings of the election process in a non-partisan setting is pretty eye-opening.