Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Be Nice to Your Election Workers
I was a poll worker during Tuesday's primary in Virginia.  Anyone registered to vote in the state could vote in either primary, they just had to make a decision once they got to the polling place.  This caused some logistical issues for the people that administered the election.  In Arlington, each precinct had two identical polling books; as voters got to the front of the line, they would announce their name, and workers with both books would look up the name, and ask which primary they'd like to vote in.  Workers would put a mark by their name in the book corresponding to the selected primary.  Both books had to be available and checked when every single person checked in to avoid someone voting in both primaries.

This was disastrous.  It was a big election, and by 7:00AM there was a long line of early morning voters, puzzled by the fact that we could only help one person at a time, and figuring that it had something to do with the idiocy of the workers, like me, who were doing exactly what they were told.  So they'd finally get to the front of the line, and suggest other ways for us to do this, apparently thinking that we had some say over the broad election policy.  There is nothing more annoying than being told by some ridiculous 25-year old Capitol Hill staffer that you're running an inept operation and you're making him late for work.  My tongue was bleeding, from all the biting.

Things got more manageable later in the morning and through the afternoon.  But then the ice came.  Which caused traffic jams, which, of course, interfered with voters' plans, which then caused them to act like complete assholes.  There was the guy who just barely made it, but was on his cell phone talking to his friends who were stuck in traffic and wouldn't make it.  "You all need to keep the polls open," he told the woman working next to me.  Who was a senior in high school.  That guy eventually asked for the telephone number of the county election office.  I'm sure that'll be a great intellectual discussion.

We closed down, as we were legally supposed to, at 7:00PM precisely, at which point we had to run the results and complete an amount of paperwork that probably would have been easily done under reasonable circumstances, but always gets a little tricky when you've been working since 5:00AM.   A couple people showed up to vote shortly after 7:00PM.  They were gracious about the fact that we had to turn them away.  Graciousness met its death, suddenly, at about 7:45PM, when Queen Bitch showed up.  

She burst into our part of the community center, and announced that she was there to vote.  

Precinct captain:  "I'm sorry, but you can't, we closed at 7:00PM."
Queen Bitch:  "I was stuck in traffic, are you aware of the ice storm out there?"
We were "aware" of it to the extent that we had been told about it, and realized that our cars were encased in ice, but we were prohibited from leaving the windowless room for the past 14 hours, and we couldn't watch tv or listen to a radio.
PC:  "I understand, but we have to run this election based on the instructions we get from the county."
QB:  "In Maryland, they extended the polls, there's no excuse for that not to be done here."
PC:  "Ma'm, we have been given no instructions to extend voting hours."
Me, in my head:  "Maybe you should move your ass to Maryland.  Or maybe you should have taken your broom to work, instead of driving today."
QB:  "So you're telling me that YOU are denying me my right to vote?"
With the YOU, she dramatically moved her arms in a sweeping gesture, implicating us all -- high school students, kindly retired grandmothers, sporadic bloggers.  That's right, we were all involved in this conspiracy to prevent this jerk who lives in Arlington and works in Reston from voting. 
PC:  "Ma'm, I'm just telling you how we've been instructed to do things."

The Queen then stormed out.  I was watching my colleagues during this exchange, and it was a sad sight to see the looks on the faces of the workers, who had volunteered for a job that is not a lot of fun, and were being yelled at by some self-important asshole.  

Our shell-shocked, exhausted crew finished the job at about 8:30PM, then skated, literally, to our cars.  We helped each other chip away the ice that totally encompassed our cars, and headed back home, a long day of tedious work and being abused by idiots completed.

So when you vote in November, please be extra nice to the poll workers.  And hope for some good weather.