I just gave Barack Obama and the rest of you Americans 14 hours of my life today. I volunteered as a legal observer/poll watcher. Even got a snazzy lil certificate that says so. What’s a legal observer, you ask? Unfortunately, it has absolutely nothing to do with strip clubs and drink specials. This is what lawyers and law students do to make sure no one is disenfranchised (aka their right to vote isn’t infringed upon, dummy).
As a sidebar, it’s noteworthy to mention that there is no actual federal right to vote in the United States. No Constitutional Amendment. Nada. There are, however, several amendments which tell us who cannot be prevented from voting based on certain criteria or classes.
15th Amendment: no law may restrict any race from voting 19th Amendment: no law may restrict any sex from voting 23rd Amendment: giving residents of D.C. the right to vote 24th Amendment: the right to vote in federal elections may not be conditioned on payment of a poll tax 26th Amendment: no law may restrict those 18 years of age or older from voting because of their age
Basically, if you’re over 18 you can vote.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the poll watching…
Let me say that I will NEVER do this again. It is officially on my top ten list of shit never to repeat in life. The shit was just too tiring, too long, too thankless and there were too many annoying people around.
I was assigned to a polling place out in a predominately Latino/a neighborhood. To begin with, I had to speed to the polling site, then realized I had forgotten my certificate and went all the way back home to get it. In the process, I drove the wrong way down a two-lane, one-way street. Safe to say I was not familiar with this neighborhood.
So I get there, it’s like 8am by that point, and I introduce myself to everyone then tell them why I am there. Now there were four precincts or wards within the one polling place. As per my instructions, I need information from all of them. As I was the only legal watcher in the place, I understood that I was to keep an eye on the entire BUILDING. Well, not everyone was feeling that. From jump, 2 of the 4 precincts were cool and very willing to help. The other two, however, were haters. Yes, haters. I am loathe to mention this for fear that it will come with its own stereotypes but then again… all the stereotypes fit in this case – The 2 haters were old Black women.
There was one table with Black Lady1. She kept trying to question the authority under which I was present and acted like she never wanted to give me information. I’m supposed to gather numbers of voters at 1pm, 4pm and when the polls close. She actin stingy with ’em. The point of getting these numbers is so the Obama campaign can compare them to the numbers reported and avoid fraud, aka Florida 2008.
The table I was sitting at was staffed by Black Lady2 who was the “judge” (basically the person responsible for each district but who is not an actual Judge nor an attorney by any means), her niece and her daughter. These clowns sat there all day just talkin shit about people. Complaining because people didn’t know where to go. Complaining because people forgot their voter registration cards. Complaining. At lunchtime, they came in with two cheesecakes and a bunch of takeout from Popeye’s. When folks came to the table to vote, they couldn’t figure out where to go because all the chicken on the table was obscuring the damn poll book!
Like I said, the voters were overwhelmingly Latino/a. Why is it that these coons I was sitting with kept fucking up all the names? They acting like retards when someone shows up with two last names. THEN they had the nerve to tell one of the Justice Department workers who was making rounds at the polls that they spoke Spanish. WTF? The only Spanish I heard was some fucked up pronunciations of basic words like “direccion,” “Senor,” and “aqui.”
At around 7pm, just an hour from the polls closing, I got into an argument with Black Lady 2. See, I attended a training and I have a manual with guidelines and the actual Philadelphia County election laws. I’m no expert on them, but there was an area I had familiarized myself with: That of provisional ballots.
So this dude comes in right… and he goes to one table but they don’t have him in the poll book. They send him to the next table. Nothing. The next. Nothing. The last. Still nothing. He’s tired and has a kid with him. He’s ready to give up and says he’s going to leave because they won’t let him vote. No one has him listed. I tell him to come see me at that point. What I do for him (as I have been directed) is to call the Obama PA hotline where a worker will look up his polling place for me, based on his address. I call and the worker tells me that the man should be in the right place. Okay. Well for some reason or another he’s not on anyone’s list (or he is and they’ve missed it. I must have caught like 12 names that the workers said weren’t listed and I found them actually listed there). Anyway, the phone worker tells me that the man will have to file a provisional ballot (a paper ballot with its own special procedures). I turn to Black Lady 2 and say “Miss Black Lady 2, could you please get this gentleman a provisional?” What does she do? Fuckin’ huff and puffs.
After the man fills it out and leaves, she comes over to me and gets a lil volume in her voice. Talking about “We follow the rules here. He has to vote in his division and ward. This is not his division and ward. I’m the one who has to put my name on this and you’re just a poll watcher. You don’t tell people what they can and can’t do. I’ve been doing this for blankety blank years blah blah blah blah blah.”
So at this point, my first instinct is to tell her to fall the fuck back and lower her tone. However, I’m not here representing myself. I’m here for Obama and I need to respect that. So I told her “Look, I respect the fact that you have done this way longer than I have (that was a jab at her being old, by the way) and you know what you’re doing. However I am here as a legal observer to make sure the same rules you go by are followed according to election laws. I disagree with you and feel that you are wrong here. That man was not going to vote at all. To prevent that, a provisional ballot is available. So I appreciate you letting him fill one out. If he’s not supposed to vote here or is not really registered, well then the vote won’t count. No sweat.”
She tried to argue with me more about it, but I think I sounded too sure and RIGHT. I didn’t have to pull out the statute, but I would have. It says just what the hell I told her. I get the idea that she’s just been doing this too long and didn’t take too kindly to some fabulous young law student coming in telling her she had fucked up.
There is SOOO much more I could go into. However, I’m super exhausted. I don’t even think I’ll watch the poll results tonight. Rather just wake up and see what happens in the morning. I’ve had enough. I got the numbers from my poll location, around 426 for Hillary, 297 for Barack. Yep, she had the Latinos on lock. How? I dunno. My girl was working as a legal observer down in South Philly. She reported a similar Hillary victory at her location. We already know Hills held weight with the blue-collar crowd, though.
Speaking of my AceBoonCoon down in South Philly, we spent all day texting and calling each other. See, it was boring as all fuck in there. No one to really talk to, just waiting for something to happen, hours and hours of sitting. NO INTERNET! Here are some of the gems My girl sent me from her polling site:
- It’s like a Bronx Tale!
- I don’t like being here. It’s boring and lame and all the mafiosos left!
- I’m disgusted cuz there are soooo many people to make fun of & no one to make fun of them with… ie chick looked like a snowman on top of chopsticks
- umm, i see a dude with a blue and white french cuff shirt w/white cuffs and big ass bright ass satin white tie… its like, get ur life 2gether
- lol i thought the judge of elections whispered to someone ‘she’s retarded’ cuz voter couldnt work machine but he said ‘shes replublican’ lol
- OMGOMGOMGOMG im lookin at the craziest fuckin monstrous camel toe ive ever seein in my fuckin life…i just passed out
See what we do for Democracy? See what we did for BARACK?! He sure better end up president or I’m gonna be pretty salty.
Hope you voted PA!
*It's called alliteration, silly.