category: Poltics

Three stories from Election Day 2017

(from last week, when I served as a precinct chief)

A woman overvoted on her ballot (meaning that she’d filled in two circles on a race where she should have only filled in one), so I explained to her that she needed to spoil her ballot by filling in all of the circles and then I’d provide her a new one. She spoke and understood some English, but struggled understanding what I wanted her to do. “Does anyone here speak Spanish?” she asked me. I looked around and didn’t think so, so I pulled out my phone and fired up Google Translate. It worked perfectly. +1 technology.

Aside from a couple of “you let all the illegal aliens vote!” conspiracy theorists, the voters were all very civil throughout the day. The big exception, however, was the final person I interacted with that day. He showed up to vote 15 minutes before polls closed, but he was on the books as being in a different district. He was sure he was supposed to vote here because he’d moved and had a new license so obviously he’s supposed to be able to vote here. He insisted he checked the box on the DMV form to update his voter registration, but my records showed that no update had been received. I called the registrar to do some further checking when it came out that he’d only changed his address a week ago (all changes needed to be done by October 16th). I explained that he wouldn’t be able to vote in our precinct because he’d missed the deadline by two weeks. He was livid. He yelled in my face that I was not letting him vote and I was telling him that his vote wouldn’t be counted. His volume increased and people started looking over. My poll workers watched in horror. He tried to embarrass and bully me into letting him cast a ballot. It didn’t work. He left as the polls were closing screaming about how he was going to tell people about this and make it public.

(No matter how angry you get at the polls, please remember that the workers there are not full-time employees. They work once or twice a year for minimum wage as a service to the community. Chill out and take it up with the registrar.)

A woman brought her elderly father in to vote. He used one of those walkers that has a seat attached to it. He moved slowly through the polling place, insisting that he would stand while he filled out his ballot. He gave chocolates to each poll worker he interacted with. He cast his ballot. On the way out, his daughter told us it was the first time he’d been out of bed all week but he was adamant about voting in person.

The woman came back in a few minutes later with her mother. She used the same walker and similarly moved slowly through the polling place. She stood, she cast her vote. As she was walking out, her daughter came over again and said, “I just wanted you all to know this… my parents have been married 66 years and found out within 48 hours of each other that they have stage 4 cancer. But they insisted on coming out to vote today.”

So, to anyone too lazy to vote or who think that their vote doesn’t count so they’re not going to bother: you can do better. No excuses.

Mock Elections

Since 2004, I’ve worked the polls every year on election day (and often during primaries and local elections, as well). I figured I’d try it once to see what it was like during a presidential election, but ended up getting addicted and have made it a point to get involved every year.

My wife and daughter decided last week that it would be fun to set up an election precinct on our front porch. So, they did! They put together a ballot, then invited homeschoolers, neighborhood kids, folks on Facebook, and any kids that happened to walk by. We opened the polls yesterday from 1-3pm. (Absentee voting was done online until later in the day.)

In the two hours we had 25 kids come by to vote, which is more activity than in any two-hour span when I worked the Republican primary elections earlier this year. Impressive turnout by the youth voting bloc!

Here are the final results (and here is the Google spreadsheet with additional details):

President/Vice President

  • Barack Obama/Joe Biden (D): 22 (71%)
  • Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan (R): 8 (26%)
  • Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala (G): 1 (3%)
  • Virgil Goode/Jim Clyme (C): 0 (0%)
  • Gary Johnson/James P. Gray (L): 0 (0%)

US Sentate (VA)

  • Timothy Kaine: 16 (55%)
  • George Allen: 13 (45%)

The age range of in-person voters was 3-10, with the average being 6.9 years old. (We didn’t ask for the age of the absentee voters.)

Rasine by our street sign.

Rasine casting her ballot.

We had a great turnout of enthusiastic young voters.

Just like at the real elections, we signed and sealed the ballot box until it was time to count the ballots, to prevent voter fraud. Unlike the real election, Shepp was the guardian of the ballots.

Cracking open the ballot box.