If anyone is wondering what working a precinct polling place is like on election day, all I can say is, it was a lot of fun seeing democracy at work in Blanco at the Old County Courthouse.
The people who run all this like to have a mix of Republicans and Democrats represented as election clerks. I must admit, I didn’t sense any political opinions being shown all day, and still don’t know who was an elephant and who was a mule, except for our election judge, Penny Conn, who is as delightful a lady as you can imagine. Arriving early at 6:30 am, we set about setting up tables, chairs, voting booths etc. Shortly before seven, Penny swore us all in, and promptly opened the doors at 7 am. We immediately had two short lines of five or six voters at our two tables. Disaster struck immediately, when peering in the dimness of the lighting, on a very dark morning, I realized I had my wife’s glasses, and couldn’t see much. The type size in the election registration books would be OK for 20/10 Air Force pilots, but absolutely illegible to 70 something’s in dim light.
I made my embarrassed apologies to “the Judge” and headed back home for some specs and a desk lamp.
We had steady attendance until about 11, and the much anticipated “lunch rush” never happened.
It’s is very interesting to observe one’s fellow citizens on voting day. Early voters are already marked in black, with a stamp that says “voted” on the registration pages, and election day voters are marked in red, which prompted one attractive lady to ask me “Why did you mark my name in red?” Perhaps, I thought, she perceived she was being branded in the wrong party. Explaining the black and red simply as a means of marking the time of the vote, mollified her quickly and she headed off happily to the privacy of a booth.
Then there was the gentleman who came in telling everyone within earshot that he didn’t have his registration card. We asked for a driver’s license, and he didn’t know were it was. We asked for a picture ID, and he didn’t have one. By this time our judge, Penny, asked him for a pay stub, a utility bill, vehicle registration, anything that would help us let the man vote. He said he didn’t keep any of those items. He wasn’t anywhere to be found in our precinct, and finally he huffed out. (Hopefully he knew where he lived).
Two different individuals brought us great lunches that were thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. Sorry, but I have forgotten the names of the donors, so I can’t give them a plug.
One of the first things we did was fill out an information card for the purpose of getting paid. This came as a pleasant surprise, as I really thought we were all doing civic duty. In fact the check came to me about 8 business days after the election. In appreciation of the fact that I was allowed the privilege to participate in the democratic process, the proceeds are going off to St. Jude’s.
You don’t get rich working at elections, but then that isn’t the point, is it?
I was amazed at some elderly folks, who, unable to walk, found their way, often with family help, to the second floor of the Old Blanco County Courthouse to practice democracy. I was also impressed with the many first time voters.
All of us should be very proud of our young Blanco residents. It was very gratifying to all of us to see young men and women taking advantage of their right to elect their government.
We are blessed that we use old fashioned paper ballots. Computerized voting could be intimidating to someone who isn’t familiar with computers, and Election Judge Penny told me that the one machine we had for the handicapped wasn’t very user friendly. Happily, no one had the need for it all day. There were no glitches, chads, hanging chads or any other little obstacles to overcome. Some folks wanted to fold their ballots up, which is a no-no, so they were unfolded before going into the boxes. Some wanted to know about straight ticket voting and could you do that, and yet still make exceptions for certain individuals? (Apparently you can.) One lady came out of the booth waving her ballot and asked, “How do you vote against somebody?”, and hiding our smiles we simply explained that the only choice there is to not vote.
It was a great experience, and following the results that night meant a lot more to me and my wife, Jo, who also worked as an election clerk, at the Masonic lodge precinct.
Special thanks to Maggie Goodman, a great citizen herself, who invited me to be part of the experience. It is an honor to participate, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting my coworkers. None of us seemed to care about which party we belonged to, but we all care about our country.