Somewhere in California
Oct. 20th, 2008
In the midst of working 4 campaigns, I had 3 tasks that day: register last minute voters at CityTeams' Men's Recovery Center (where I had volunteered earlier this summer), get the forms to the County Voter Registrar's office before Midnight, and phone bank for No on (h)8.
I collected 5 forms, then headed to Dem HQ for a solid 3 hrs. of the fight for constitutional equal rights.
(It was TOUGH. 4 "NO"'s out of 60 calls.)
After the debriefing and a small personal donation, I was off to the Registar's office to turn in the forms I'd collected earlier. And this is where it got CRAZY.
Pulling in the driveway to the parking lot, I took note of the set-up: strategically placed sandwich board guides-"VOTE HERE", "VOTE BY MAIL DROP OFF HERE" (to the left, pointing to a secure steel slotted lock box), and a HUGE one straight ahead stating "REGISTER HERE-DEADLINE: OCT. 20TH-MIDNIGHT".
I got out of my car, walked up to the "registration" table outside, and found a large mostly full box of forms, pens, even bottled water-BUT NO ONE MANNING IT. Maybe they were on break or needed something from the office? So I went to find out.
A badged employee exited the building just as I approached. "How ya doin', sir. Name's Mark. You're the election official in charge of collecting registrations?" I asked the stout older hispanic gentleman.
"Name's Joe. And no, I am not. They left about 9, I think."
"Joe, huh? Like Joe the PLUMBER?!"
"HA! Yeah! Joe the plumber! And heating! And A/C! And electrical! I'm the facilities maintenance guy!!
(More belly laughs)
Ahhh...So. How can I help ya, Mark? Anyhing I can do?"
"Well, Joe, I got these forms I need to turn in before Midnight. These guys KNOW me. They GOTTA be counted, man. Can ya just slip 'em inside the door or somethin'?"
"Hang on-lemme call my buddy Ed. He works there (BEEP-BOP-BOOP-BOP-BEEP-BEEP-BOP)...Ed-Joe. Gotta guy here needs ta turn in some registration forms before the deadline...yeah...umm-hmm...gotcha. Alright(click).
Ed's gonna call his supe and get back to me in a min-(RING!) ED? Yeah...OK. See ya tomorrow. Bye.
Ed says sign a note with the date and time on it & I'll leave it on the
front desk with the forms."
"Sure thing." I scribbled down the info.
"Alright. Good. Be right back."
He punched in the access code and entered the building. I looked back at the table, where a small meandering crowd had gathered. Behind them was an alarming steady stream of headlights flowing down the long drive.
The doors swooshed open as Joe returned moments later.
"There ya go Mark. Your buddies are in under the deadline. Mission accomplished."
"Hey, thanks a LOT Joe, REALLY!"
"Well...," I trailed off, with a glance toward the table and the chain of cars filing in.
"What?" Joe quizzed. But we both KNEW what.
"What about THOSE people?" I nodded to.
Joe stroked his chin, assessing the situation. With a resigned sigh, he cast me a sideways glance, and said, "It's gonna be like this all the way to Midnight, isn't it?"
"It's a big election, Joe. Yeah."
"You can say THAT again. But What're ya THINKIN'? What can WE do?" He asked-truly concerned, but with a detectable hint of suspicion in his face and voice.
"Well," I said, "I AM a registered election official-"
"Yeah-I'm logged in the system as a 'standby precinct inspector'-been doin' it for years, but my health ain't up to what looks like a grueling 16 hr. shift this time around."
"And they got that steel box with the slot in it over there for the vote by mail drop-off-"
"-that they're gonna open up and collect from in the morning anyway, right?"
"...Sooo, I'll help 'em fill out the forms, they can sign/date/time the outside of it, and drop it in the box?"
"I mean, they're suppose to get 'em postmarked at the post office to mail 'em here, but they're ALREADY here!"
The crowd was growing, increasingly restless and confused.
"Let me call Ed," who called his supervisor, who got back to Ed, who got back to Joe, who gave me a thumbs up and said, "We'll exchange contact info, I'll be your witness, and you're good to go."
It was 10:04 when we started. Joe remained wary until people were put at ease knowing someone was there familiar with the process.
Questions asked, questions answered. Every "t" crossed, every "i" dotted. All appropriate boxes and blanks checked and filled. Taxis pulling in from all over the county. Barely had time to choke down 2 quick smokes in that 2 hours leading up to Midnight, careful not to block the outdoor lighting people needed as I stepped aside.
There was a brief respite at 11:40, and Joe estimated we'd seen close to 100 registrants.
"Think that's about it, then?" He asked.
"There's procrastinators, and then there's 'last-minuters'." I said. "We haven't seen the 'last minuters' yet."
And then came the rush, at the very instant those words had left my mouth.
35 registrants in the last 20 minutes. 125 total in 2 hours(including the ones I brought-Joe's estimate). 75% of them first time registrants (my estimate). All of them EXCITED, the historic import of this election lost on NONE.
At precisely 12:01 A.M. Oct. 21St, we folded up the sign, placed it on the table, and moved the table to the side out of the light. I collected all the pens and water and threw them in the box of blank forms to stash in my car to turn in the next day.
"Thanks a lot, Joe."
"Thanks for showin' up, Mark. Good job ya did there."
"Hey, it's a big election."
"That it is."
"Ya know, I might just charge the county overtime for this!"
"I'll back ya up on that HA-HA-HA! You take care of yourself, Mark."
"You too, Joe."
And that's my 'Joe the Plumber'(heating/A-C/electrical/facilities-maintenance guy) story.
125 registrants in 2 hrs. And Joe had my back the whole time.
Once again, thanks Joe.
And Ed's 'Supe.'
And Rock The Vote.
And channel 11.
And the Registrar of voters and the Democratic party for all their training.
Post Script: I called 'Ed' the next morning for my own piece of mind as to the status of those forms:"Oh, yeah, NO PROBLEM-they counted them ALL. Thanks for doin' that!"
Hey. It's a big election.
My only regret is that I hadn't gotten there earlier.
To Change, Hope, Progress, and the pursuit of happiness.
Here's to an Obama LANDSLIDE-YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU. Peace. Kruzrdude out.