Friday, November 9, 2012

most important @50 - working the poll!

today's post is about the most important thing i did on my list of 50@50...i worked the poll!

no, not THAT pole . . . the POLL. the voting poll!! this year, for the first time, i did something i've wanted to do for all my adult life...i worked in a polling station during an election. and not just any election, a presidential election.

i've been voting ever since i could (including 1960 where i'm absolutely positive i voted for JFK in vitro!)

in reality, i've been voting since 1980, when i cast my first vote for jimmy carter, at the tender age of 18.

i've voted in just about every election i could ever since. mayor? check. governor? check. dog catcher . . . possibly. check. presidential? check.

and ever since that first time, when you had to pull a curtain around your voting station...i've been almost addicted to voting. i LOVE it. it's such an easy and simple way (well, not so simple if you take it seriously) to be engaged in your own country's democratic and governmental processes.

i LOVE voting.

why? well, for one, what i said above, but for another, it's a way to tangibly give something back to generations before you who stood up for you without even knowing you or that you would ever even exist.

i tell everyone i've ever met, if the subject comes up, why it's important to vote. no matter your race or gender, someone died for you to have the right to vote. the revolutionary war was fought for our american freedoms, which allowed white men to take responsibility for their own futures.

the mistreatment of women suffragettes in 1917 in occoquan workhouse prison in virginia, including beatings and forcefeedings, all because they picketed the white house for the right to vote. this and other activities by more well-known individuals led to the passage of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote.

it took the 15th amendment of 1870 AND the civil rights voting act of 1965 to ensure that persons of ALL races would have the right to vote.  (of course, it took tennessee until 1997 to ratify the 15th amendment...hmmmm)

fast forward to the 21st century, and it takes a lot of work by dedicated individuals to make our election process run smoothly and with integrity.

in order to be a poll manager (actual title), you have to take a mandatory 3.5 hour class. i had a wonderful instructor who was enthusiastic and patriotic about what we were doing. then there is online training and the next thing you know...the BIG days is here!

and what a day it was!! omg!! i worked with the most amazing people, two of which have been doing  this for over 20 years!!! mr. sandis sullivan and ms. yvonne reeder were the poll clerk (in charge) and 2nd-in-command, respectively.  i asked each of them what made them get involved that first time.

sandis paused, and then said "to be involved." to see what it really takes to keep this democracy of ours going. yvonne said,"my mentors." she was encouraged to become more involved in the political process. she's quick to point out that elected office is not in her future. "i'm an agitator," she says with a knowing wink.

i had the BEST time with my team at the poll. our ages ranged from late 20s to early 70s. black and white. we all worked together to make sure EVERYONE was given to ability to vote.

we especially celebrated our FIRST TIME voters, most of whom were 18 or 19 years of age. but we had two "young" ladies come in to vote for the first time, who were clearly in their 40s. that was joyous to see.

what else did i see? people coming to the polls using canes and walkers. dragging oxygen bottles. walking extremely slowly. or using curbside service because their age or frailty of health made it too difficult to come inside the poll. and some making the struggle to come inside. inspiring? absolutely!

many people thanked us at the polling station for volunteering.  i didn't expect that. it seems people really appreciated what we were doing. it's true, though. you have to arrive at the poll an hour before opening, which was 6:00 am. and you don't leave until after the polls close (7:00 pm) and you've cleaned up the area, broken down the voting machines, put away tables, printed off tallys, shut down computers, taken down signage and generally put the place back the way you found it. it's a long day, but it didn't feel that way.

i have been voting for 32 years. i thought that was a long time. some people have been voting longer than i've been alive. and one woman in spartanburg, south carolina, voted for the first time at 106 years of age. now THAT'S a FIRST!!

i am proud to have had the opportunity to serve my community, my state and my country to help people exercise their hard-fought RIGHT to vote, even if we didn't do the fighting. but we benefit so much from those that did.

"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

those that fought and died over generations to enable us to enjoy freedoms today were the tree planters. by exercising our rights to vote, we enjoy that shade, but we also acknowledge the tree planters sacrifice and, hopefully, plant our own trees at the same time by example.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, my first time voting was in that 1980 election for Jimmy Carter, too! But I didn't win my first one until 1992 : )