Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Of elections and public service

There are a lot of stories about me that few people know, whether they be those who know my online persona or those who know me in real life. The following account is known by several of my real-life buddies and friends, but not yet revealed to the blog readers.

In November of 2009 I got silly.   I was voting in the general election in my home precinct and noted that more than a few local offices went unfilled.  Having been seized by what could best be described as a Risky Business - What the fuck? moment, I initiated a write-in vote and wrote in my name.    I confess I was more inclined at that instant to be a joker than to that have been anything legit, but I did it.   The office was truly local, for an Election Board member.  I hesitate to state its title here, because with my luck someone would figure out who I am with Google's assistance. 

Two days later I received a letter from the County Board of Elections.  I thought it would be a letter that asked if I was serious or admonishing me for wasting the Board's time if I wasn't. You won! is what you're probably thinking, because everyone I've told this story to made the same conclusion.   But the letter wasn't either of those two choices.

It was a tie; 4 others had their names written in for the same office.   What are the odds of that happening, especially considering no one had bothered to run for the office in the first place?    So the letter advised there would be run-off - no that's too strong a term - there would be a ceremony where all 5 names would be placed in a hat and the winner selected by the Board chairperson, and I was invited to attend the event.

My much-better-half had only one thing to say upon reading the letter:  What did you do???

To make this profoundly long and boring story short: the day before the drawing, when I had decided to withdraw my name from the contest, I received a phone call telling me that I did not need to come to the Courthouse tomorrow; all the other candidates have withdrawn, so you're the winner.

Once again, MBH asked What did you do???

Throughout our nation's history, I wonder how many offices were filled by such a thin election as mine?   On my desk at home sits an officially sealed and signed certificate of my esteemed office.    My MBH has resigned herself to this being another bit of public service I perform, and is fine with it.

I arrived at the polling place yesterday to undertake my first day of official duties;   odds are very high there will be little official duties for me other than on primary and general election days for the next 3-1/2  years, but I will continue to perform my duties as defined.    I am a certified poll worker, not to be confused with the kind of people who are volunteers at your precinct.   Don't assume, however, that I get any sort of politician's salary or benefits package:  I receive the same $120 for my services as all the others get, but I tend to work harder than they do if for no other reason due to my gender and age difference.  

When you have to report to work at 6:00 AM and leave at some in-determined time after the polls close at 8:00 PM, you realize that stipend given to poll workers is probably a little light, given the extremes of waste we're all familiar with in government.

Our precinct had a 20% turnout -  particularly good considering it was a Primary on a rainy day.     Sen. Arlen Specter was sent packing handily, as he was throughout the state.  More than a few people were disappointed that they couldn't vote against him, since they were Republican and he was no longer one.    Pennsylvania, like most states, requires voters to vote in primaries only within their own party.   That Sen. Specter had betrayed them made them want to vote for Rep. Sestack in yesterday's primary, knowing well they would vote for Rep. Pat Toomey, the GOP candidate.    Sen. Specter's loss comes despite initial support from President Obama and the DNC machine.   That support was noticeably lacking in the last few weeks, despite promises from Vice President Biden to campaign for Specter if he needed him;   VP Biden was in PA on Monday to speak at his daughter's graduation commencement, but didn't find any time to speak at any Specter rallies.   Sen. Specter's biggest draw for the GOP before his party-defection was that he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee (think of Supreme Court nominations);  once he left the GOP, what would inspire anyone on the Left to vote for him??    That Sen. Specter was so betrayed by the DNC is only fitting after his betrayal to the GOP.    Here's hoping Mr. Specter has a comfortable retirement.

Side note: Considering the support - initially at least - President Obama had given to Specter, this makes the President 0-4 in candidates he's backed.    

In 12-PA, the district held a special election to replace the late Rep Jack Murtha  (full disclosure: I do not live in that district).  In an district that is 4-1 Democrat, Mark Critz - a former aid to Rep Murtha - beat Tim Burns by a slim margin.   Mr. Critz stated he would have voted against ObamaCare, is pro-Second Amendment and Pro-Life:  that's 3 things that clearly set him apart from the Obama administration and DNC in general.   Could the wheels be coming off the DNC?

A woman in her early 30s caused a scene at my polling place yesterday afternoon.   Her name was not in the rolls, and after the Judge of  Elections intervened, things got interesting.   It seems this gal was registered as Not Affiliated with Any Party, and as such was ineligible to cast a vote at this or any primary.   She began to loudly protest the situation to the Judge.     While not specified anywhere in my assigned duties, I immediately circled around and stood beside the judge;  anyone who raises their voice and starts getting noisy will my Judge had better be prepared to deal with me also.

The Judge explained that since she was in an undefined party, she couldn't vote today, but she could take her complaint up with her Board of Elections or her local state representatives.   Inexplicably, the gal claimed she was not affiliated with any party because "I am against all forms of bipartisanship!"  (Can I assume she prefers anarchy instead?).

The Judge said her peace and withdrew, and the gal turned to me, pointed her finger in my face and shouted You and the rest are all the problem!  I have a right to vote and this whole process is unconstitutional!   I calmly replied:

The United States Constitution leaves the process of determining eligibility to vote to the several states.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, like many other states, requires Primary voters to be registered members of the respective parties that are holding a Primary.  Your right to vote in any general election is still valid as always, and we'll look for you in November.  
I then paused and drew a breath, speaking firmly this time:
You are free to petition the legislature to change the laws, but you cannot vote here today,  And the next time you get into someone's face and throw around words like unconstitutional you had better be certain to know at least as much about the Constitution as the person you're yelling at, because clearly you don't.
She stomped off, probably realizing she was just beaten in a battle of political wits.  I decided then that I could get used to this office a few times each year.

And besides: think about the possibilities - today I am an elected member of my local Election Board - tomorrow maybe I can run for Community Organizer!!

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