LMNOPQR - Election Bingo!
Tuesday of this week was a l-o-n-g day for me and the rest of the election judges and other poll workers in Missouri (and any other states holding primaries on that day). I'm still recovering from the deferred sleep-hours (you have to be at the precinct NO LATER than 5:10 AM) and the long hours in an un-air-conditioned space (the heat index for that day was 110), sitting in ancient folding metal chairs. After the initial rush to get the precinct open by 6:00 AM (not a moment later, mind you...it's the law, and we are always nervous about that part), I was the judge at the L-Z table, with the L-R poll book. Do you know how many times I sang the Alphabet Song in my head that day? More than I care to admit to, for sure. If I'd been the Poll Worker in this photo (left) of the 1956 election in Missouri, I'd have been sitting at the same table where President Truman came to get his ballot! (Of course, I would only have been 3 years old, but I digress...:)
This was our General Primary, selecting the candidates who will be on the November ballot, with the "hot race" being the one for Governor. In Missouri, you can "crossover," as they say, and vote a party ballot of your choice. And, the ballots themselves are "color-coded" both by party and by your address (since district lines are rarely drawn exactly by precinct). So there were two Republican ballots (one white, one green), two Democratic ballots (cream, orange-striped), and Libertarian (pink tint...I kid you not). Only...and this made for more than a few comments during the day...ALL of the ballots were printed on WHITE paper...with just the color name printed in the upper corner (i.e., Green, Cream, etc.). I'm sure it seemed like a good system to someone at some point...
And, we've no chance of Hanging Chads in our county anymore. We have both an optical scanner ballot box (where you mark your paper ballot with a felt-tip pen in a voting booth and then deposit the ballot in the box, which is used by 99.9% of our voters) and a touch-screen, computerized unit. Sure does make closing the precinct at 7:00 PM easy as pie! (We closed up in a record 15 minutes this time.)
The biggest challenge, however, was surviving the boredom of a light turnout. We have 2,322 registered voters in our precinct, and only 422 voted. Do the math...that's a meager 18%. Of course, it was hot. Of course, there weren't any "issues" on the ballot. Of course, it was "only" the General Primary (as opposed to the earlier, more glamorous Presidential Primary). But, really. Voting is both a privilege and a responsibility, right? Besides, if you don't go vote, you have absolutely no right to complain. Period.
[Climbing down from my soapbox...]
So, why do I continue to work at the polls on election day? I actually have a great time with my co-workers...and meeting my Ward #1 neighbors and friends. Plus, I feel like I'm giving back a little. At least, that's what I keep reminding myself when that alarm goes off at 4:00 AM...:) And, as a little bonus on a low-turnout day, I get some quality knitting time! There's always a bright side.
Besides, there's always the next election in November. Something tells me that one will be a good deal more than 18% turnout.