Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Election Day Woes

Primaries were held yesterday in Indiana, and I have served for a few years as an inspector for a precinct. This means that I am in charge of making sure the supplies get there, the machines are properly set up, everyone who is supposed to vote gets to, and that everything is properly finished up. Then I get to take the documentation of the votes cast downtown.

I really enjoy the opportunity to do this, although it can be stressful at the time. It is very satisfying to help people exercise their right to vote.

Yesterday had the usual frustration plus a few additions.
First, there was the fact that we had new machines. From my perspective they were great: easier to take down and set up and simple to close out. And for most voters they were not especially difficult to use, and in time will probably be considered downright easy. However, my three precincts were voting at a senior citizens community and many of the older people had extreme difficulties with the new machines.
Second set of frustrations: We had people handing out candidate info within a few feet of the polling place. Voters were complaing. When I asked them to please move to the required 50' distance one man got very belligerent and said that I was on a power trip. I told him that I was going to go inside and make a phone call to make sure that I understood the law properly. I did.
I went back out to ask them again to move. More verbal abuse from this man and from some teens who were handing out info for a schoolboard candidate. Then he went stomping off threatening to "report me."
So I called the election board again and reported the whole incident. We didn't know who he was campaigning for and he didn't come back. I knew that I was right, so I thought it was over. About three hours later I received a call from a member of the election board. A man claining to be a police officer said that he was handing out literature 85 feet away from the polling place and that we went out and told him to leave. Yeah right. I went out in the rain to harrass some guy doing what he had every legal right to do.

Third set of frustrations (this is always the case): People. They want to be able to vote where they want to vote. Precincts shouldn't change. Sites shouldn't change. They should be able to move and vote in the new precinct even if they didn't change their registration. I was very sympathetic, helped people figure out where they needed to be, called voter registration to find out why they weren't in the book, etc., but I was frustrated by the mentality that *someone else* was responsible for making sure that they knew where to go and were properly registered.

One exception to my frustration with people: The precinct where I worked last election was a fairly low-income area. There are lots of elderly people who can't drive and many other residents without cars. The polling place yesterday was outside that precinct by a fair distance, especially for a walk in the rain. The few people from that precinct who were able to figure out where to go and made it there made sure we knew that they were NOT pleased with the new location. Several of them said that they felt like someone was purposefully making it hard for them to vote. I told them that I was sure that that wasn't the case, but I could understand their frustration.

Overall, though, working at the polls is a good experience. The Allen County Election Board does a good job of instructing us thoroughly. There were procedural improvements that made things go more quickly, and the people downtown were very efficient. We were out of there in less than five minutes. And--in spite of all the pre-election angst--not one person at our three precincts questioned the need for an ID. Several even commented that they were glad. And I had people who remembered me this year who had voted in the last election at that precinct. One man even thanked me for coming back.

6 comments:

Marie N. said...

Hopefully you would never need it, but maybe you can carry some copies of the statute or law limiting how close campaigners can stand to the polling place with the pertinent information highlighted.

I noticed there seemed to be fewer volunteers at the building where I vote on Tuesday. Is it that fewer are needed with the electronic machines? Maybe it was the time of day I voted too.

Jane said...

I'm sure that with the low expected turnouts they used less volunteers.

Meg L. said...

I always wondered what the Indiana law was on distance. Where we vote the flies stand right outside the door. I find it very annoying, but figured it was because it was different state so I've never complained. That may change now.

On location, I just think Indiana does it weird. I can't vote at the church that's less than 1/4 mile away down our street, I need to drive a mile to another church. Does that make sense?

Pr. E. R. Fickel said...

I'm sure that with the low expected turnouts they used less volunteers.

I doubt it. I am confident they used fewer volunteers.

Sorry, Jane, that's a big grammatical pet peeve. Besides, you'd rather hear it from me than from anyone else.

-Fickel

Jane said...

Thanks. I know that I can count on you to let me know when I slip up. :)

Sir Darth Merlin Bilbollum Finn said...

Last fall, I signed up through Teenage Republicans to help out at the polls in town. I ended up not being able to go because I was sick, but I heard that they had some similar problems with people passing out literature too close to the polling area.