Democracy In Action

October 10, on our 2. day of early voting 
I was the 1,000th early voter 
at our downtown location. 
Santa Fe county had 35,000 early voters, 1/3.
While 4 years ago I voted FOR Obama, 
this year I voted AGAINST Romney.
November 6th, Election day, I needed to get up at 4 am to present myself promptly in my position as Election Judge (no longer Clerk) at a nearby polling station. Trouble was I had dropped my deceased Mom's ancient plastic alarm clock. No matter how many new batteries I replaced, the clock would come to a stop eventually by 12, a mystery to me. So I tried my cell phone alarm, but it rang once only during at least 6 trial attempts, another mystery. So I got my client (yep, I was desperate) to lend me her alarm, only the sound was not exactly alarming! I often wake up in the early morning hours, but will I wake when I really need to? I asked the precinct Election Judge, my boss for this Election day, for the extraordinary favor of a wake up/back up call. In my anxiety I gave her, out of my mind, obviously running on automatic, my old, long since replaced phone number, one I have not used in 20 years which did show something of my state of mind!

I did not treasure the idea of riding my bike in the pitch black darkness of night, dressed appropriately, befitting an Election Judge and the solemnity of the day's occasion. Due to daylight savings time two days prior,  dawn had turned on the light already on the horizon, while the air did not feel frigid, but invigorating as we had experienced unseasonably warm temperatures this fall and earlier in spring. My half hearted hopes of encountering some wild life, such as another coyote or maybe a bear, found no fulfillment though. 

My boss wore purple with bright orange hair, while my co-worker wore greenish yellow unevenly hacked off, wild hair. Unable to resist the day's pay, this young girl stuck her nose in to some kind of cookoo comic book every chance she got. I had squeezed myself in to some undergarment several sizes too small,  not worn in years. Over it I wore layers of silvery/gray  elegant rayon and silk and my favorite 2-stranded white pearl necklace. I brought enough snacks for a week it seemed inside two bright red canisters. Most returned home with me. We worked 14 hours straight, unable to leave the building, unable to check in on the progress of the elections. Nothing that might compromise our professional, neutral stance was allowed; no computers, phones, newspapers, or magazines. 

Most of the day I served helping voters feed their paper ballots in to the voting machine and rewarding them with stickers and my enthusiasm for having done their civic duty. After a bit of an early morning rush voters trickled through, there was barely ever a line, any waiting any problem of any kind. Well there was the woman that wore a Pro Life T-Shirt - illegal and a man that resorted to a newspaper for help in voting - also illegal, and one kid wearing an Obama T-shirt. 

Most endearing was a dad I had watched enter the polling station, hand in hand with his 4 year old daughter. I observed them get their ballot, go to a booth, as it happened right near me. I then heard them talk and heard the little girl say "Obama" as I watched her fill out the oval of her choice. Dad talked some more with his daughter as he progressed down the ballot and they came over to me to surrender their voter permit, a dinky piece of paper, but important in our system of checks and balances. As they fed their ballot in to the machine, their vote got counted, I was able to reward them with their sticker, proof of them having voted. The girl's focus and seriousness really touched me. Dad did not just drag his daughter along, but engaged his daughter, only 4 years old, and made his daughter aware of choices and I believe empowered her as a girl and future woman and citizen. 

Most of the day I spent near that voting machine which also meant near an official Republican Observer, but unable to discuss political matters - a kind of hell, definitely for me. We had received 950 ballots, the voting machine registered 363 ballots, we ended up destroying 600 unused ballots. We were 5 that worked that precinct for 14 hours, the voting machine did cost thousands of dollars and then there is the expense of the technicians and the supplies and others I am sure I have not thought of. All of it for 350 votes! Seems to me that one vote costs us too much. But at least we now have a good system with check and balances all the way through that should make voting a breeze with barely any lines and any waiting. I want to believe in our democracy and I was honored to play a small part in it with actually great enthusiasm and impartiality.

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