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.