06 November 2008

My day at the Polls

I got up before dawn on election day and drove a half hour in the dark to a north east suburb of the Twin Cities. I was a DFL "challenger" though the DFL didn't want us challenging anyone (besides, the law says I would have to have personal knowledge that the person couldn't vote, hard to do when you don't live there). Really I was there to be the eyes and ears of the party and to report back any problems.

I sat myself down in a corner and got ready to spend the day people watching. I sat behind the same-day-registration tables and watched people register and reregister to vote. There were two major themes; the problem with the same-day-registration law, and the wonderful people that came and really really wanted to vote.

First, the problem with the current law. I'm not sure when the law was written, or when it was last updated, but there are some obvious problems. To register a voter has to bring a form of photo ID to prove that they are who they say they are, and a bill with their name and current address. Or they can get a voter registered in that precinct to vouch for them, a staff member of a group home will also work.

So the problem is that only specific bills are accepted and some things that logically should work, don't. Signed leases? Nope. Car payment? No. Medicare payment? Try again. Paystubs? Nope. There were even two different people who thought maybe an alcohol citation would work. They didn't. (Quote of the day: "I was in an accident I wasn't aware I was in.")

The other problem I saw could be addressed if a signed lease could be used; there were at least three couples that had moved on the first of the month. All they had were leases, no bills had come yet.

But here is where I start to feel better about democracy. ALL of the people that had moved came back with someone to vouch for them, or a receipt for a new drivers license. One couple was turned away twice and the second time the guy was talking like he wasn't going to come back. But they did, separately, and both voted. Even the woman who was probably 6 months pregnant. A young man that was registered with his wife earlier in the day, was brought back with a friend to vouch for him and they brought another woman with them. More than that, he realized that he lived down the hall from the couple at the other end of the table and could have vouched for them too.

But the most heart warming thing I saw was a older woman, blind and deaf, with an aid who registered and voted. It must have taken the better part of an hour for them to fingerspell the entire registration form, the entire ballot and her vote.

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