Democracy or bust!

Recently, I took a certification class to be a poll worker. You know those folks, the people who operate polling places where barely 1 out of 4 New Yorkers can be harangued to visit once, god forbid twice a year.

You know, the people without whom democracy would crumble.


(Click on image for source.)

I really wasn’t sure what to expect, especially after the opening, where one of the instructors outlined the day. It would end with a 20-question exam. It would be open book, and at the end of each question, they list the page where one would find the answer. I had been so proud of myself for committing myself to this civic duty. At this point, I no longer felt special. Democracy certainly had low expectations for those who served it.

It was a 4-hour session, that covered all the mechanics of poll site operations: from accessibility signage, to ballot scanning machines, to making friends with fellow poll workers to make that 16-hour Election Day fly by in peace and harmony. Most of all, it conveyed that poll working is a customer service-oriented position, where the customer is almost always right.

One of the sections covered was verifying that the person standing in front of you is, in fact, the registered voter they claim to be. Various situations were covered, such as not having a signature previously recorded, whether the fresh-faced person in front of you is the 62-year old woman as the registration book is expecting (the miracles of plastic surgery notwithstanding). Then there was the scenario of the gender listing in the registration book not [seeming] to match the gender presented. The instructor, a forthright and engaging fellow, simply declared,

“This is the new normal folks. We treat everyone with respect and dignity. If the signatures match, that’s all we need to know. We’re in the voting business, not the culture business.”
Then he moved on to affidavit voting…

Though not crazy that this was reduced to a culture issue, rather than an identity or basic humanity issue, I took this positively. I suppose we are all still struggling for a common language.  I hoped, and hope still, that this was sincere. There weren’t any snickers in the class, at least as far as I could tell. Perhaps it’s the distance we have yet to travel between tolerance and affirmation.

Whether I’ve passed that “exam”, I won’t know for another couple of weeks. It turns out there was a bigger outcome to hope for after this experience.


[Featured image available here.]