Semi-live-blogging the election

The polling place where I work as an election judge does not have an Internet connection that’s available to me so instead of actually live-blogging the election I’ve kept a journal.

4:58am   I arrived at the polling place a little early this morning around. It’s in the gym of a local public elementary school and it’s about a block from home. My wife took a couple of the dogs and walked with me to the polling place. I kissed her goodbye, gave the dogs a pat, and went in. I’m the first one there.
5:02am   The custodian has wheeled up the ESC (election supply cabinet) using a hand truck. Good on him. He apparently didn’t like my re-positioning it—a big blue box about the size of a refrigerator and only a little lighter—last time so he’s being pro-active. This way I won’t scratch his floor.

5:05am   The second assigned judge has arrived. She’s never worked an election before but she seems to be a willing worker. That’s all it takes. I explained to her how to set up the voting booths and check out the punching apparatus. She’s good to go. I need the key to the ESC so I can check the inventory.
5:11am   Mary Jane shows up with the key to the ESC. Fantastic! Another experienced judge.
5:14am   The good news: three new judges have shown up in quick succession—Alicia, Katie, and Patrick. The bad news: none of them are voters (they’re all high school students satisfying a class requirement) so there are some tasks they just can’t perform. This is something new.
5:18am   The last assigned election judge has arrived. We’ve got a full crew of seven.
5:35am   Inventory done. Booths set up and checked. Let’s check out the precinct ballot counter (PBC).
5:40am   PBC checks out. Now I need to make sure the work positions are properly set up.
5:50am   We’re good to go!
6:00am   We’ve opened the polls right on schedule. There are three voters waiting for us.
6:35am   I’ve been too busy to journal. The first reps from the States Attorney’s office shows up. I expect quite a lot of this. How many ballots have been issued? How many absentees? Any spoiled ballots?
6:45am   I’m being interviewed by a local radio station. Have things gone smoothly? Any problems? Have we got everything we’re supposed to have? Etc. I find out later that I made it onto the air.
7:00am   28 voters out of 434. I’m the most experienced judge here and I have the best idea of what’s going on. My role here is basically utility player. I do whatever most needs doing. And make sure we’re doing everything right.
7:16am   The count of ballots issued compared to votes cast based on the PBC count is off by 1. Apparently one of the voters from our precinct put their ballot into the PBC of one of the precincts we share quarters with (there are three precincts polling here). The election from the other precinct are balling me out.
7:32am   47 voters out of 434. I have to admit that I’m pleasantly surprised with the good spirits everyone has shown so far. With any luck it will stay this way.
7:58am   63 voters out of 434. The vote count continues to go up through the morning.
10:48am   I just determined that my co-workers haven’t been following the spoiled ballot procedure correctly. I explain what needs to be done (the ballot application for the voter needs to be marked to show that the voter asked for and received a new ballot) and we go back and correct things.
11:05am   154 out of 434 voters.
12:15am   Somehow the applications issued and votes cast per the PBC count are back in sync.
12:30am   The Democratic precinct captain brings us lunch. This is SOP. Remember Chicago is a paternalistic one party system.
1:08pm   202 voters out of 434. This is turning out to be an excellent turnout. Break to vote at my home precinct and potty the dogs.
1:30pm   I’m back at my post having voted, walked four dogs, posted to my own blog, and posted To Dean’s World.
3:22pm   Alderman Marge Laurino just showed up to say hello (and give the customary box of candy). In my opinion Laurino is a very nice gal and has been an excellent alderman. I don’t know how it is elsewhere but in Chicago your alderman is your line of first resort in interacting with city government. Need a new garbage can? Call the alderman? Street light out in front of your house? Call the alderman. A sort of case manager. And Marge is quite conscientious. Rather attractive, too, I think wearing her work clothers of business suit, sensible heels, and floor length black lambs wool or cashmere coat.
5:00pm   284 voters of 434. Alicia has taken a break. In discussion with her earlier in the day I determined that her family was from Pakistan and she was celebrating Ramadan and consequently fasting. I’ve tried to protect her from temptation a little by keeping my co-workers from forcing food on her. She’s breaking now to pray. The rest of the election judges are Catholic FWIW.
5:28pm   Alicia is back.
6:02pm   305 of 434 votes.
7:00pm   The polls have closed. We have a total of 343 votes cast and absentee votes out of a total of 434 registered voters in the precinct. There were also two provisional ballots cast. I’m going to be too busy (and too tired) to journal any more.

We finished the tabulation and transmission of votes by 8:00pm. I’m pretty happy with how things went. We weren’t perfect. We never are. But we made our best effort and that’s what’s required. I wasn’t too much of a martinet or a pill. That becomes difficult after the 13th or 14th hour of work. The high school student were wonderful. They worked hard and contributed enormously to the effort. I would have high school students work with us again any time.

Here are the results from the top of the ballot in the precinct in which I worked:

President and Vice President
John Kerry and John Edwards 176 51.9%
Geoge Bush and Dick Cheney 162 47.8%
M. Badnarik and R. Campagna 1 .3%
United States Senator
Barack Obama 220 66.9%
Alan Keyes 98 29.8%
Jerry Kohn 4 1.2%
Albert J. Franzen 7 2.1%
3 comments… add one
  • Lurker Link

    Dave, That’s for the interesting post. Your note about the high school students is particularly nice. I wonder if you might share more of what Alicia thought about the process? She may have some interesting perspectives.

  • I did try to draw Alicia out but she had about the reaction you might expect a seventeen-year-old to have to an old man like me. She was polite but not particularly forthcoming. Both of her parents were born in Pakistan but she was born here. Her dad has his own construction contracting business. He came over here quite a few years ago and arranged for Alicia’s mother to come here. There marriage had been arranged when they were both children. Alicia won’t have an arranged marriage herself (she says). She’s as American as you or I. She’s hardworking and hopes to become a doctor.

    When she told me that her father was from Pakistan, I immediately asked if she was observing Ramadan mainly so we could make whatever accommodations we could to help her without being too conspicuous about it (as I would have to anyone else with special needs or dietary requirements).

    I didn’t get much of a sense of what her political ideas were. She was a little coy about that.

  • Lurker Link

    Thanks for the update… and for your election service!

Leave a Comment