A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A pretty incredible day

As you know, yesterday I worked the election polls for the first time. It was an interesting and exhausting day. Had to arrive at 6:00 am and didn't leave until 9:00 pm. Although we did get two one-hour breaks which was a good thing. And we got this cool pin.

The day didn't start off too well - our alarm failed to go off! But, good old Ed has this built-in too-friggin-early body clock that woke up at 5:00 am and he promptly hit me in the shoulder and said, "Get up - the alarm didn't go off!" Nice way to start. Then I slipped on the cement stair in the garage and, although I was able to catch myself before going all the way down, I did manage to hit my ankle bone on the cement stair (yes, it hurt!) and hit my arm on something that left a big bruise. I was reduced to asking Ed for some Neosporin. Horrors.

But I made it to the polling place and we spent the first hour setting things up, getting introduced to each other, and planning our day. I wound up with a great team - four of us were retired and spent a lot of time talking about how much we enjoyed that. One woman was there with her 21-year old son - she's worked the polls before and wanted him to experience it. And we had one high school student who was there to learn and observe. Everyone was capable, pitched in wherever needed and really a great group.

I had hoped to have some funny stories from the day, but there really weren't any. What I observed was quite overwhelming at times. Our precinct had almost 50% turnout to vote - and that doesn't count all the mail in ballots. Here were all these people of all races, ages, political backgrounds, coming together to make history. So many excited 18-20 year-olds who were voting for the first time. Many of them came with one or both parents. One mother got choked up telling us that this was her daughter's first election. A couple of times we got teary-eyed watching these young people being so totally engrossed in the process.

No matter which side people were on, everyone knew that this was an exciting and historic election. One party with an African-American candidate, the other party with a woman. Democracy just doesn't get any better than this!

We had several young men who, if you saw them on the street, you would think they were total slackers. Baseball caps on crooked, pants hanging around their butts with the crotch so low they had to walk like penquins (and they had a really wide stance at the voting booth so the pants wouldn't fall down!), t-shirts with creepy logos. But there they were, signing in and voting with big smiles on their faces. And being so proud of it.

One of the "tasks" that we rotated through was handing out the little "I Voted" stickers. Everyone grabbed the sticker with a big smile, and said they would wear it proudly. One young man put it on his forehead, one man used it to cover a bleach spot on his green shirt, many people gave us a high-five or thumbs-up when they got the sticker. So many parents came in with their children and told us they wanted to show their kids how the process works. We gave the kids stickers, too.

One of our team was a retired teacher and he had great fun with the three or four classrooms that came through on a "field trip." He explained what elections were, how the process works, what we were doing in the polling place. And they were intrigued. They waved at us over at the table.

I was amazed how many people thanked us for working in the polls and said they really appreciated our willingness to do it.

We had a group of Japenese students from Stanford who came over to observe. They told us they were so surprised by how congenial everyone was, that we were laughing and talking with each other and with the voters, and that there weren't any armed police stationed at polling places. That was one of those real "proud to be an American" moments! Sometimes we don't realize how good we have it until we hear these types of comments from people from other countries.

There was one elderly Hispanic man who came in and didn't speak a lot of English. And none of us spoke more than a few words of Spanish. One woman was trying to help him and she came back to the table so we could figure out how to tell him that it was okay if he didn't mark the ballot for those propositions he didn't understand. We pooled our limited knowledge and came up with a phrase which she repeated to him and he understood! We high-fived each other for being able to help. When he was done voting, he came over and shook all our hands and said "Gracias."
We let people put their ballots in the scanner themselves (some polling places have the workers do it) and, again, it brought huge smiles to their faces.

The hardest part of the day was after 6:00 pm when I knew the results were coming in and I wasn't in front of a tv. Ed was texting me periodic results, I was able to log in to CNN a couple of times on my Treo. Then around 8:20 or so, the polls had closed, we were in clean-up mode, and a few people found a tv in the next room. I asked what they were doing and they said they were listening to McCain's concession speech! I was so shocked that it was over so quickly. I truly didn't expect that. Happy, mind you, but shocked. Everyone in the room (we actually shared the library in the school with another precinct so there were around 15 of us there after the polls closed), except one man, was very happy about the results. And he said to me, "I'm not happy with the result, but the fight is over and now it's time for us to move forward and fix things."

Never having worked a poll before, I was also surprised by the closing processes. Everything is carefully managed and laid out. Seals are removed in the morning and we all have to sign that they had not been tampered with before we removed them. New seals were placed on equipment and boxes at the end of the night. Tallies from the scanner were posted on the wall outside the building, and placed in a special bag. At every step, our team had to sign documents to ensure that we were all part of the process. Seals were put on equipment, bags, boxes, huge zip-locs bags. Names were signed, every piece of paper had a spot - nothing gets thrown away. Unused ballots were counted, rosters were counted to ensure that they matched the machine tally (which they did!).

It was a great experience. I'm not sure that any other election will every match up to the excitment of this one, but I will definitely be working the polls again. Feels good to give back.


Nikki said...

Great for you Sandi! You are a better woman than I am...I get so annoyed with crowds and waiting I would have been whining like a little teen-aged girl! I love that you love giving back...you are a patriot my friend! :)N

Luz said...

Kudos for giving back! It's nice to see the U.S. becoming American again and not divisive as in the past 8 years with liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, and red or blue. Win or loose we are all Americans and may or may not agree with one another but we must still respect one another.

It's Me said...





Obama Nation!

namaste said...

sandi, congrats to you on giving back and playing such a significant roll in history! your mom would have been so proud. i'm sure the twins are.

so many great little anecdotes here: the boys who looked like slackers, but instead were proud voters. the high-five among the volunteers for getting beyond the language barrier. the foreigner who was rightfully impressed with the non-need for police enforcement. ed giving you updates. how efficient the entire polling/volunteer process was. i am proud to know you, girlie.

high-five! nice job.


namaste said...

btw, i LOVE that pin! that's a great gift for volunteering.