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My partner and I went to vote this morning before leaving for work. Both of us have long commutes and it's just easier to go early rather than late. And we'd never not vote.

We live in a small town in Massachusetts with one polling place, the gymnasium in the local middle school. Parking was tight when we arrived and it was clear that things were hopping. There was no wait once inside, but this is obviously an important election.

In addition to the presidential and senate races--go Obama and Warren!--we have a hotly contested state senate race and a number of important state and local ballot initiatives. The robust turnout was no surprise in my community. . . .

My partner and I checked in quickly, saying hello to our neighbors and fellow church members who were working the polls. After 13+ years in this small town we know a lot of people of all political persuasions.

Voting was as simple as taking a standardized test. No electronic voting for us. Strictly color in the dots.

I finished quickly and checked out first. You give your name and address on the way in and again on the way out. Then you feed your ballot into the machine.

But today, for the first time in my years of voting here, there apparently was a new step. One of the check-out workers directed me to the side of the gymnasium where a group of people were seated with big notebooks. A woman asked me for my name and address.  For the third time.


I asked her if she was an election official. She replied that she was. I told her that I'd already checked out and she huffily snapped, "Nevermind." So I guess that she wasn't official and this wasn't part of the voting process.

I stood off to the side to wait for my partner to finish filling out his ballot and then go through the check-out process. I watched as poll workers for every precinct directed people after they'd checked out once to check out once again with the people seated off to the side. The same thing happened to my partner that happened to me. He just walked away.

I have no problems with poll watchers for any party or organization observing the voting process. I have no problem with people sitting to one side and listening as I give my information as part of the regular voting process.

I do, however, have a problem with poll workers collaborating with poll watchers. I also have a problem with poll watchers for any party or organization representing themselves as election officials, especially since Massachusetts law is explicit on how things are supposed to work in the voting process.

According to the representative in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with whom I spoke, poll watchers may sit behind the check-in and check-out desks and listen. They may not speak to voters to request information.

I did indeed report what seemed to me to be election irregularities. My partner, who observed the same things I did, also called to report what he'd seen.  We were both told that the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth would be calling the town offices to check up on our reports.

If you had told me that, in my small town in Massachusetts, I'd be witness to any potential polling problems, I would have laughed. It's not that I think that Massachusetts is above reproach in things political.  Far from it. But our little community, despite thinking itself very important, is really a backwater.

Yet the stakes in this election are high for a number of people and groups, and not just those of us on the Left. This means that we must all be vigilant, all take action if we spot something untoward, and protect the democratic process with which we've been entrusted. I feel as if my partner and I did our small bit for the common good this morning, but I wish we hadn't had to.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I find all these stories of polling place (5+ / 0-)

    irregularities highly disturbing.  Highly.  I don't understand how any American would think this stuff is okay in this country.  The GOP has two people at the top of their ticket who are proven liars and purging registered voters, suppressing people from voting, misdirecting people with robocalls is how they plan to "win.". Why is any American in favor of these tactics?  How is that AMERICAN???

    I seriously am in fear for democracy today.  Seriously.  One side is playing by the rules and the other side is OPENLY cheating.  That side needs to be thrown out of the game.

    Best. President. Ever.

    by Little Lulu on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 08:17:56 AM PST

  •  I live in Lexington, MA. Not a small town (6+ / 0-)

    Normal: Checking in, table with 3 people, telling the person address/name and her "x"ing my name in the voting log.
    New:  Her shouting name/address to a second desk  of 3 people where they cross checked me in a large book.
    Normal:  Filling the ballot,  Checking out
    New:  Man standing behind desk as I checked out, writing something down.  My name and address?
    Normal:  Putting my completed ballot in the machine, getting my sticker
    New:  Second table after check out with people discussing what to do for a voter who wasn't on the list anymore, after voting her whole life here, etc...  At least it was clear they were helping her vote while some sketchy poll watcher type dude hovered over.

    Wow.  I can't imagine how scary it would be in a voting area where I didn't know half the people and the cop at the door.  How many aren't voting from that fear?

    Four more years!! No voter suppression, can't f'in believe that's a goal in 2012...

    The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking. A. A. Milne

    by Memory Corrupted on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 08:24:34 AM PST

    •  From what I gathered talking with (4+ / 0-)

      the guy in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, there were some irregularities in the procedure in Lexington.

      And I totally agree with you when you say it could be intimidating if you were new in town and didn't know people in the room, including those who were handling the election.

      •  This was definately a new process. But (0+ / 0-)

        I'm confident that if you are a registered voter and want to vote in Lexington, "Birthplace of American Liberty" , then you will get the chance.

        The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking. A. A. Milne

        by Memory Corrupted on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 11:39:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The poll worker shouted out my name (0+ / 0-)

      so the poll "watchers" could hear it and mark my name off on their book.  I didn't much like that.  Poll worker seemed annoyed by this process, too.  I asked what the watchers were doing, and he said, angrily, "Making sure I do my job right."

      Reporter to Mahatma Gandhi: What do you think of Western Civilization? Gandhi to reporter: I think it would be a good idea.

      by tryptich2 on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 12:36:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  20 minutes! (4+ / 0-)

    Nothing like that at my MA precinct this morning -- standard checkin/checkout -- but by far the longest line I've ever seen there. I was the first to vote by showing up 5 minutes early at the primary (and there were some hotly contested primary races -- there were more sign holders for the primary than today, when there was one lone sign (holder absent, probably voting) for Sheriff).   This time, 5 minutes early got me 20 minutes back in line, and the line was just as long when I left (though no longer, and moving briskly.)  

    I've never seen anything like it, including in 2008.  

  •  I'm from a small town in Massachusetts (5+ / 0-)

    and now I vote in a small town in Maine where I voted early by absentee ballot.

    I'm sure my small town (Bolton) is very different today than it was when I was a kid (in fact I know it is: nearly all the farms are gone and its population has doubled and nearly every household makes six figures where that sure wasn't true 40 years ago). Small town New England isn't as innocent as it used to be. That's sad. Or maybe I'm just getting older.

    I'm glad you reported it though.

  •  Glad I read this before voting... (5+ / 0-)

    I'll be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary when I go vote this afternoon, and ready to report it if I do.

    "But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die." - - Cherokee saying

    by brillig on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 08:41:20 AM PST

  •  All normal in my small Central Mas town. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity, The Marti
  •  Can you ask other people in town if this is still (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Marti

    happening? (I assume the Sec'y of State has contacted the moderator, but that doesn't always stop the issue.)

    If it's still going on, then it needs to be reported to 1-866-our-vote. Lawyers will be dispatched to the location to stop this.

  •  My likely explanation (3+ / 0-)

    In New Jersey, each party is allowed two people per polling place (in addition to the party precinct committee members) called "challengers", who have the right to be present within hearing range of the sign in table, and can interrupt with a "challenge" that is then voted upon by the actual poll workers; I never heard of that ever happening. Their actual function was to strike the names of their party members who voted from their lists, so that non-voters could be reminded later. So ... not knowing MA law exactly, I suspect in this one instance cited, there was no way to seat those folks near the table, and this was an ad hoc compromise reached.

  •  The voting booths where I vote were badly (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radical simplicity, The Marti

    arranged, and people in line that had checked in and had their ballots were being herded into an area that was literally on top of people who were voting.

    I could see their ballots and what they were voting for.

    When it was my time to vote, I refused to go to one of the spots that were easily visible and waited for another spot to open up.

    In this case this was not a situation where voters were being pressured on purpose.  The poll workers had clearly not calculated on the long lines, so they had brought in extra booths and these were squeezed into the wrong place.

    When I complained, they had already taken note of the discomfort of voters and were in the process of re-organizing the stalls.  This was at 7:30 this morning.  So hopefully, those behind me had a better experience.

    I fall down, I get up, I keep dancing.

    by DamselleFly on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 09:05:07 AM PST

  •  thanks for heads up! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Marti

    I'll definitely be on the lookout. There has never been this sort of stuff in my town outside Boston and I've voted here for 12 yrs now!

  •  I'm curious (0+ / 0-)

    what they thought they'd be accomplishing after people had voted.

    Didn't notice anything out of the ordinary in our small town in MA. The poll observers looked pissed though, and it was a madhouse. Maybe they couldn't hear names. Or maybe they heard too many names not on their list.

    Are you on the Wreck List? Horde on Garrosh.

    by Moody Loner on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 11:21:57 AM PST

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