Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Low Turnout

Voting stations standing unoccupied as they did for most of yesterday's election.

There was a school board election in my community yesterday. I'm an election inspector so I spent most of the day along with three others manning my assigned precinct. Taking part in legitimate functions of government (as opposed to say, wealth redistribution) is an interesting exercise, I've found. I think most people would think sitting on a jury a dull waste of their time. Not me, though it helped that I was a juror for an intriguing murder trial.
Anyway, yesterday there were two contests on the ballot. In one, there were two candidates for two positions. In the other, there were two for one position, but one of the candidates had dropped out. My precinct is located in a university dorm and school let out last month. Put it all together and the result was a grand total of three voters. Four election workers working 16 hours (the polls were open for 13 hours, plus setting up, shutting down and transporting the results to City Hall) for three votes. In contrast, nearly 1000 voted in the precinct last November.
During the process of of closing the polls, we improperly sealed a couple of election document containers so they needed to be unsealed and resealed correctly. This was time consuming and frustrating since it was late and we'd already been at it a long time. Our precinct chairman seemed especially upset, and it concerned me because he's sixtyish (maybe older) and heavyset and looked to be ripe for a cardiac event. I was thinking that it was ridiculous to have to go through all this to process three votes for uncompetitive races for trivial offices.
But then, that's what's so admirable about our democracy and why I was drawn to do this work. Every vote is treated the same whether it's cast for an unopposed candidate for a school board or for a furiously contested one for the Presidency. And it's bothersome when the system is corrupted, which certainly happens on occasion. [I don't want to make this a partisan issue right now so I won't mention that Democrats are much more willing to game the system and are better at it than Republicans - think ACORN]. Instances of electoral corruption occur less often than in the past, but they'll never be completely eradicated. That's unfortunate not least because it negates the efforts of hardworking election workers dedicated to maintaining the system's integrity.

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