For many years I have volunteered at the Polls; advocating for candidates. Often standing next to others being paid for what I willingly do without pay. I once took exception to people running for office paying Poll workers. Somehow to me it just did not seem right for someone to seek pay for doing something by conviction they believed in. My thinking has evolved. If it is simply a job to them, then they should be paid. Fair, yes I think so, all candidates can do this.
This said, it is one thing advocating for someone, asking for your vote, and another to give voters a pre-filled out sample ballot, and tell or try to intimidate them to vote for someone. The arrogance of it, I feel has risen to a level of voter disenfranchisement.
This is not the story here, but a point and practice I feel everyone should be aware of. It is what I was witness and subjected to in the conduct of polling at the Youngsville, North Carolina Library that captured my attention. Friday 28 October; activity was heavy at times with people having to wait in lines; good to see people coming out to vote. It is fortunate and appropriate that the disabled and those with mobility difficulty can do what is called “curb-side-voting”.
Routinely I, like others noted people pulled up to do so. Things were busy, and just as routinely they would be parked waiting for someone to come from inside so they could cast their votes.
From time to time one of those working / volunteering would put down their campaign materials go inside and let it be known people were waiting at the curb. In the past it was never known to be a problem. My impression has been the person looking to vote appreciated the gesture.
I shared with an election official that we were doing so. We were told in no uncertain terms not to do this. The result was the disabled often had to wait for extended periods to vote. Parking backing up, a number of people left without voting. Those observing this felt uncomfortable, but we were told there was nothing we could do about it.
Seeing an elderly woman in distress, her vehicle parked in the sun, on at least two occasions I pointed it out to an election official that exited the building. The woman had been waiting in my estimate more than an hour. The official appeared to dismiss my notice to her.
In a further effort to assist the woman I called the Board of Elections in Louisburg. Moments later the activity for those waiting for curb-side-voting was energized. With equal speed and to my surprise an election official pointedly, and in front of others admonished me for having called the Louisburg office.
Not wanting to make a scene I just let it go. For me the woman was taken care of, and that was the end of it. This was the same official that had reprimanded those volunteering for someone previously making a call to the Louisburg office for another matter. A call I had no knowledge of.
It is not lost to me that many working for the Board of Elections during elections are not full time employees; they do it more out of civic duty than for the little they are paid.
Round two of my rebuke commenced later in the day when I decided to cast my vote. Another elections official in front of others, and those in the conduct of voting, reprimanded me for having made the call. Again not wanting to make a scene I tried to minimize it. There was open laughter resonating as I left the building.
It served as a public embarrassment. I had no intent of concealing I had made the call, as I identified myself in doing so. As I recall the Director of the Board of Elections in Louisburg thanked me for doing so. My intent was simply to assist in the effort. Clearly someone called, and did what I will now call “put me on report”.
Speaking to another volunteer about the experience, she characterized the treatment as haughty. Saying said she had experienced it herself. Not being familiar with the word I looked up the definition, ”Having or showing arrogant superiority to, and disdain of those one views as unworthy”.
She nailed it.
I could name every one of the principal players in this, and personally know a few of them. It would add little to the story and serve only to embarrass them. Better that I spare their feelings. In such events in the future my hope is they will extend the same courtesy to others.
This is a story some would prefer I not write. I will have upset some friends with it; such is the nature of writing this column. The requisite to tell the story is exceeded by this.
More and more it seems haughty describes how people are being treated by our public, not servants, but employees, and elected officials. Was I wrong to help the woman and call attention to this, or wrong to share this experience? I do not feel I was. Do you?
Thank you to all those engaged in the 2016 election effort. A special thanks to those volunteering to do so.