Monday, November 10, 2008

Pollwatching in Colorado

The Geebus reader KS writes:

Hello all -- I'd like to share my yesterday [election day] with you:

5am: wake up

5:30: stuff my cooler with snacks

5:45: drive toward a beautiful sunrise to overland high school

6:00: introduce myself as a credentialed pollwatcher to election judges for 3 seperate precincts at this high school. they can't tell if i'll be a nuisance or a help today. make sure machines all have zeros and that election judges have adequate supplies.

6:30: about 30 people lining up outside

7:00: polls open -- everybody in good mood -- no problems

7:30: i am asked to leave by the vice-principal of the high school as an unauthorized person in the polling location. this is our school ma'am and we are allowing only judges and voters to be here. 3 other government pollwatchers are also asked to leave. his orders are coming from the school superintendent. i argue with him outside in the cold that when a school agrees to be a polling location then it has to comply with election law; we all are authorized by state law to be there as credentialed poll watchers; he is breaking the law; he has no authority to kick me out; here are my credentials; what's his supervisor's name and number; yada yada yada.

7:35: call this into obama legal team and tell them to get on the phone to school district that this polling location is violating state law. worried that this is happening districtwide.

7:35 to 8:30: stand outside in the freezing cold waiting for resolution and decide to kill time by assisting numerous voters who don't know their proper polling location.

8:35: approach vice principal again nicely and suggest we ask the election judges if pollwatchers can be there. we do that, they say yes, and we're all allowed back in. (never hear back from legal team)

8:40: back in again and discover that numerous provisional ballots were cast improperly while i was outside b/c election judges did not follow proper process. i direct them all to their own training manuals for correct process on provisional ballots. they mean well.... they just were overwhelmed and didn't know the rules. this is why i am here. this happened 4 years ago too.

the rest is a blur until....

1 or 2pm: i step outside to receive the lunch jenny has brought for me; glance up to see former senator gary hart and the leader of colorado's obama campaign and a camera person pull up (hart is driving them). they say they hear there's a problem at this location and was their help might needed? (looks like the boiler room made some calls after-all). i tell them they are about 6 hours too late, it's been resolved onsite, please don't go inside to bother anybody, but what a pleasure to meet them all. photo op! hart says thank goodness for our excellent legal counsel here and they are off to visit more troubled polling sites.

more blur until 5pm, when an election judge (about 65 years old) tells me she thinks i'm too bossy and offputting and that it causes her stress to know i'm watching her. i tell her that none of the other 11 election judges there has this problem, nor has any election judge i have worked with in the last 3 times i have done this; give her the same speech i gave the guy who kicked me out in the morning about how the law allows me to be there, to ask questions, and to tell her when she is doing it wrong. sorry if you think that's off-putting, but that's my job -- you are in fact doing it wrong -- and i'll watch from across the room and try to be more pleasant when i address you ma'am. would you like a brownie?

more blur until 7pm when the polls close and results are posted.

7:45: home to be with my family

8:30: to the parties downtown with steve to watch the returns, hear and watch speeches, buy stuff, and take in the scene.

11:30: instant sleep.

whew.... what a day. no long lines, but lots of registration problems nonetheless and it's hard work trying to nudge the election judges to follow the proper procedures. our system of conducting elections is so poor. there's go to be a better way that isn't so complicated.......... maybe next time.

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