Thursday, October 30, 2008

View from a Blue State

This tediously rhapsodical post is one of my oft ignored DailyKos diaries. But I really wanted to put it out there before election day.

Cross Posted at DailyKos

Dear Fellow Kossacks. I'm going to be warden at my precinct in blue, blue, MA and I wanted to share some information with you all on how this election looks and feels to poll workers--and how its going to look the day after depending on how all of Senator Obama's voters comport themselves in line and in the polls. I'm writing this diary to remind all of us that whether we are wearing our campaign gear, or working the polls, or standing in line we are all of us representing the change we want to see in this country going forward. We are all of us being the citizens and activists that Senator Obama, Senator Biden, and all of the democratic and progressive activists have modeled for us: civil, courteous, informed, engaged, engergetic and calm. Cross posted at If I Ran the Zoo

I'm going to be warden at my poll in blue, blue Ma and I can assure you that I look forward to this job with a lot of hope and a lot of anxiety. Look, even here in MA where we want every person to vote and where the state government has bent over backwards not to disenfranchise people there are going to be long lines, delays, angry voters, people who thought they had been properly registered, people who are going to be challenged, people who are too tired or busy to stand in line, people who need to show ID, people who are going to be offered provisional ballots--in short, there are going to be problems. The election system is too fragmented, too chaotic, and too jury rigged to be smooth even when the state is trying to do the right thing.

The first thing to remember is that even in a state, or a county, that you sincerely believe will go blue your vote matters--it matters because as you all know an overwhelming victory in the popular vote is necessary to helping Senator Obama and Senator Biden and the entire Democratic Congress and Senate push through truly progressive legislation. Every vote will matter--because every vote puts our new representatives on notice that we are out there and we are paying attention. And it helps reframe the public debate over new policies by at least hinting to the press corps that the country has swung left, not center/right. So even if the lines are long and you think Senator Obama is going to win anyway don't blow it and leave the line. Stay in place and get your vote in before you rush off to do GOTV somewhere else.

The second thing to remember is that while you are standing in line, or while you are approaching the desk to give your name and address, there may be undecided voters all around you. Your demeanour--happy, sad, angry, aggressive, joyful, confident? This may affect the person next to you. So even if you are tense, or if there is some kind of difficulty with your own registration, don't let it get to you. Your presence at the polls that day, even if for some godforesaken reason you are not down on the list properly and the poll worker is forced to deny you a ballot may have a greater effect than you imagine.

Here are some of the reasons you may be asked to show ID--don't get angry and don't make a scene. Its totally not worth it and it may discourage another voter. In MA voters who don't send in their census forms every year or who don't vote regularly are automatically flagged in the voter rolls as "inactive voters." There is a mark next to their name and they must show ID with address on it so that they may vote. They must also sign an affidavit of permanent and continuous residence. People are always shocked by this provision but its not an insult to you to be asked to show ID. If you vote in this election, and send in the census form next time, the flag is dropped.

In MA we are also, by law, asked to state the voter's name and address in a loud clear voice. Its not a form of intimidation. It is not meant to break the secrecy of the ballot. But even if it were the right thing to do in this election is to smile and take the ballot and go in and vote. Be proud of your vote and your candidate and you may influence the person next to you or behind you.

If you are in the wrong precinct we will look up your address and do our level best to help you find the right precinct. Don't get angry with us because you aren't registered where you thought you were, we are trying to do the best we can in handling literally dozens of forms and bits of information about thousands of voters. Again, the way you approach voting may affect everyone else's mood in line. Don't be the reason someone else is turned off of voting, or turned off of our candidate.

If you are not properly registered (there's no record of you but you live in this precinct) we will call the election commission for you and try to straighten things out. The worst that happens is that we will be forced to offer you a provisional ballot. If that is the case its really the best we can do, we will have exhausted all other possibilities. We really don't want to have to do that because it takes tons of paperwork right there, while we are also trying to help other voters get through the line and into the voting booth. In addition, we don't want to do it, even in MA, because we want every person to proudly cast their vote and know it counts that day--not wait to hear whether it counted for a couple of weeks. If you believe you are wrongly being denied a regular ballot by all means dispute the poll workers and demand to talk directly to the election commission. Know your rights and fight for them. But do remember that in the majority of cases, especially in a blue state, the poll worker (wardens, clerks, and inspectors) are simply trying to do their best for every voter. Do it politely and with a smile. It will make everyone feel so much better. Again, even if you don't get to cast a regular ballot this is an historic election and your handling of yourself and this issue can affect everyone else around you.

I'm not saying that people who are being wrongfully denied the right to cast a regular ballot should take that lying down. Not at all. Fight it all the way to the top and have the Obama campaign on speed dial before you walk in the door. But also remember that even if you don't get to vote the regular ballot your demeanour and the way you handle yourself is part of what is going to be a really long struggle. I hope every person who finds he or she is unregistered not only re-registers the day after the election but also registers other people in time for the 2010 elections. And each one of you who feels that the poll workers weren't doing their jobs? Head right to city hall afterwards and put your name on the list to become a poll worker next election.

I am charged up and looking forward to being Warden for this historic election. Without showing my preferences, without being able to pass out cookies and coffee in line, without being able to offer flowers to my 90 year old neighbor when she comes in to vote in her 18th election for the democrat I and hundreds of other people out there are on your side. From the police officers to the poll watchers to the inspectors and the clerks. We want you to vote, we want you to have a wonderful time in line and in the voting booth. Hang on to your tempers if it seems to take a long time, or seems more wonky than it should. Together we will get through this and together we will make this an election day and a campaign that will be celebrated for its calm good temper, its great sense of humor, its fellowship, and its generosity.

Be the Change you want to be, See the change you want to see.