With a couple of exceptions—and, no, I’m not going to specify what they are—the November 4 election didn’t go my way. But I enjoyed the day nonetheless because, once again, I was invited to serve as a poll worker at the Prescott South precinct.
My job was “special judge.” Lest you be too impressed, you should know that a special judge’s primary task is to find out why a prospective voter’s name isn’t in the registrar’s book. This is done by phoning the folks at the Election Commission office, who get on their computer and figure it out. On very rare occasions, like if a voter shows up without a photo ID but insists on voting anyway or if all the voting machines quit working, special judges deal with paper ballots. But mostly what we do is sit at a table away from the hustle and bustle and wait for problems to show up.
Not many did at Prescott. Which meant that I had ten long hours to watch and listen to the four hundred-and-something voters who came and went from the cavernous gymnasium. And to think. And to take a few notes in hopes that they might turn into a newspaper column.
Lo and behold, they did.
Three groups of young people captured my attention on Election Day. All in a good way. The first were two young women, both seniors at Cookeville High School but neither old enough yet to vote, who worked as our machine operators. Meaning that they had to arrive at the polls at 7 a.m. to get the voting machines set up and ready. This is a good deal more complicated than you might imagine.
Once the polls opened, they escorted each voter to a machine and explained how it worked. After the polls closed, they confirmed that the number of people who had signed the registrar’s list was the same as the number of people who had voted. They printed the vote tallies, posted them on the front door at Prescott and then broke the machines down.
More than twelve hours after their work day had started, these personable and competent young woman were still smiling. Way to go, girls!
Two little boys whose ages I would guess at two and four came in not long after the polls opened. While their parents voted, they scampered up one set of bleacher steps and down the next set. Up and down, up and down for about fifteen minutes. They didn’t scream or holler or cause any kind of disturbance. But they did get some good aerobic exercise. And I was impressed not only with the boys but with their parents for recognizing that children needn’t be forced to sit still in order to behave.
I saved the best for last.
Late in the day, a rather harried-looking woman and three pre-teen children came into the gym. One of the boys was carrying a thick book under his arm. While his siblings sat on the bottom bleacher and waited in somewhat bored fashion for their mother to vote, the boy with the book climbed to the top of the bleachers, leaned his back against the wall, and proceeded to become engrossed in the story. So engrossed that his mother, when she finished voting, had to climb up the bleachers and tap him on the shoulder to tell him it was time to leave.
My biggest regret of the day, other than the fact that the election didn’t go my way, was that I never got a chance to find out what that kid was reading.
(November 16, 2014)