Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Who's laughing now?

          Most of my life I have worked on the other side during elections. I don't mean the other party, I mean I covered elections as a member of the media. Now that I am retired I will be working the polls as an election judge.
           Way back in 1972, when Tricky Dick was re-elected, I worked for the Charleston News-Courier. My regular assignment was in the "Women's Department," walled off from the army green newsroom in a "Kotex-box blue" protected sanctuary where we could view the bustle of the regular reporters through large glass windows but wouldn't be offended by their off-color language. On election night, however,  every hand was needed so I was stationed at the messy city desk just to answer phones. I was so excited to be part of the "real" story.
           In the '80s I was the assistant city editor at the Joliet Herald-News which meant I was in charge of election coverage. We had a union staff but on election nights we overlooked all the rules. Everyone volunteered to work back-to-back shifts, 16 hours straight. "At least we got pizza," one of my reporters recalled recently.
            And we got stir-crazy working with all the names and numbers in all the little contests that never get covered on CNN. In fact I saved an old chart of some of these minor offices in my computer at the Herald-News for coding reference at the next election. Unfortunately, when the 1990 election came around, I had taken a job in Grand Rapids. In the confusion, that old chart that was still in the system ran in the paper by mistake.
            Now I have graduated to the real job: working the polls. I don't think I ever really understood what dedication it takes to run an election. First you have to recruit and train all those polling place workers. And when the big day comes they will show up at schools and churches and other polling places all over America, working from 6 a.m. to prepare for the 7 a.m. opening until 10 p.m. to deliver the last votes to the county clerk.
             We'll get a boxed lunch, I'm told. Not enough time to eat a messy pizza!

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