Post-Election Report

After working nonstop as an election judge Tuesday, Nov. 2 — waking at 4 a.m. and arriving at the polling place at 5 a.m., getting home around 8 p.m. — I glimpsed the TV coverage and saw that with one percent of the vote in Missouri, MSNBC was saying Roy Blunt would probably defeat Robin Carnahan for U.S. Senate.

Sigh. I feel like that Peanuts character, probably Charlie Brown but maybe Linus, who lamented after his team lost a Little League game, “But we were so sincere.”

We worked so hard and we were so sincere…

I do not regret the hours of pounding the pavement canvassing in South St. Louis for the Democrats and against Proposition A.

Those of us who spent so many Saturday mornings or afternoons knocking on doors and talking with voters should be proud of the turnout in the city. The rest of the state might have been swayed by the TV ads against the earnings tax that funds a third of the city budget. But the folks in St. Louis understood the issues and they came out to vote for fair taxation and for the Democrats.

And I do not regret serving as an election judge.
Here’s what I’m proud of:

Turnout:
Ward 9, Precinct 7, which is my neighborhood, had a turnout of about 50 percent, very good for a midterm election when there were not many state races and no city races, just a raft of odd (and some that were distressing) propositions, ranging from rules on puppy mills to waiving property tax relief for disabled former POWs (but not other veterans) to trying to kill the earnings tax to preventing a fee on real estate transactions that is not in effect and not proposed.

The most recent canvassing I did focused on voters who voted for the first time in 2008 and on inactive voters who had not voted since 2008. I think the canvassing had an effect on those targetted groups, because we had a number of “inactive” voters who hadn’t voted since 2008 and a number of folks who appeared unfamiliar with the procedures.

In the city, voters marked “inactive” have to go through an extra layer of paperwork to make sure they’re legit. It held up the lines sometimes, and the pollworkers had differences of opinion about some of the procedures. But the voters were patient — actually more polite than a couple of the poll workers. It was the highest number of inactive voters that the polling site’s veteran election officials had ever seen.

Protecting the Process:
We had badges for half a dozen challengers who had signed up to come and observe us in action. But only one person showed up and he only stayed about half an hour.

We didn’t need challengers to keep us on our toes. We were very careful to follow all procedures, to protect every person’s right to vote (and vote only once!) and to protect the integrity of the election.

Cooperation:
* A four-year-old girl who sat patiently while her very pregnant mother went through the paces — standing in 3 lines — to get her “inactive”status removed and to vote; and the mother, who kept her cool even though she was obviously uncomfortable, to give her daughter a good role model. (We brought her a chair when she got to the judges’ table.)                                                                                      * A middle-aged man who patiently read and explained the ballot to his very elderly mother and gently escorted her to the ballot box to deposit her ballot.
* A blind woman that I read the ballot to who had definite opinions about every one of the dozens of judges, voting “Yes” to retain some and an emphatic “No!” to vote out others. (All circuit and associate judges in St. Louis were retained).
* A man who had gone the extra mile, getting a notarized document from the Board of Elections headquarters certifying that he was registered to vote in the precinct, along with a letter explaining that his name would not be in the precinct books or on the supplemental list, but that he was eligible to vote.
* A man who helped his disabled aunt sign the voter registry with her knarled and twisted hands. “What happens when she can no longer sign?” he asked. “Then you can write her name for her and she can mark it with an X,” I told him. He nodded.

* The dozens of folks who saved and brought the election notices they had received in the mail, so that they knew their precinct and polling place. This made our job so much easier.

* The sixth-precinct judge who kept asking us, “How do you want your steak cooked?” in anticipation of the sack lunch that the city provides all election officials. (It was a sandwich consisting of a smallish bun with a couple slices of turkey, and pepperoni, some processed cheese and a pickle. Plus a snack-size Reese’s peanut butter cup and a bag of chips. Not bad for a free lunch, but no steak dinner!)

I think I read in Facebook or e-mail that the Tea Partiers are already criticizing the St. Louis Election Board for the way it handled yesterday’s election. Speaking for the 6th and 7th precincts of Ward 9, we ran a fair and accessible election.

Democrats and Republicans worked the polls together — every ballot, every signature, has to be witnessed by officials from both parties. If our elected officials worked as hard and cooperatively together, we would have a very good government indeed.

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