Singing like a caged bird

Friday, November 05, 2004

Scenes From An American Election....

As I flew out of upstate New York, I was filled with misgivings and fear of a Bush election victory and a messy election vote count. I was trying to be hopeful and upbeat, but I felt that it would be a very close election.

I arrived in Broward County, Florida the Saturday before the election. I was immediately uplifted when I got to the Election Protection headquarters. The place was filled with volunteers and buzzing like a hive of worker bees. For the next three days I was canvassing voters, erecting election protection posters, handing out voter bill of rights leaflets in an area of grinding poverty (within a few miles of the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show with their million dollar yachts). Each time I passed a voting place, the long lines of voters participating in early voting encouraged me. They were waiting in line for 3 and 4 hours each day in the broiling sun, 89 humid degrees, with some days 8-hour waits to vote. At a days end press conference my spirits were raised even more when 23 volunteers from the organization Pax Christi were introduced….they were international observers from 14 foreign countries.
I was even more uplifted when all the volunteers gathered for our training on Election Day duties. Originally planned for 400 volunteers, there were 700 of us…from New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, California, and even as far away as Hawaii and London, England. On election eve I had become less fearful, more hopeful and definitely infected with enthusiasm.

I was up at the crack of dawn on Election Day. Stopped for coffee and doughnuts to share with the other 6 of my election protection team.

6c Volunteer Team, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

We were stationed at precinct 6c in Pompano.

Precinct Sign, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

I was at the polling place at 6:30….there were already 100+ people waiting in line. The polls opened at precisely 7:02. The line actually grew for the first few hours of voting. There were only a few snafus with the voting. People were excited and friendly. There were other poll watchers from the AFL-CIO, from the Kerry-Edwards team, from the NAACP, 3 of the Pax Christi people were there for part of the day. The voting went off without any major problems.

International Observers, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

A Minor Incident....

There was one incident that was really blown all out of proportion. While the portable touchscreen was being brought out to a disabled person in their auto (nice solution for accessibility problems, worked real well all day) a Republican poll monitor reached into the car and snatched a palm card from the voter and ripped it up. Not a very proper thing to do. The contention was that the voter was in the 50-foot zone where such palm cards are not to be distributed. The result was a good punch to the stomach of the Republican poll worker. Also, not a very proper thing to do. Soon the Sheriff Deputy was on the scene. Despite his best efforts and the efforts of the Kerry-Edwards attorney to defuse the situation, the parties of the first part and the parties of the second part wouldn't let this go.

Kerry's Able Lawyer, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

It soon degenerated into a comic skit…good enough for SNL or The Daily Show.

Before long, the Deputy Sheriff, who I dubbed Officer Obie ala Alice's Restaurant fame, was taking notes, calling for back-up, and trying to keep this from blowing up even further. He was very calming and actually did a great job…but I was chuckling all the while thinking of how Arlo would have told the story. (Please indulge me by humming along and hearing Arlo picking his guitar and his run on sentence talking folk song style to get the full effect of this piece) The best part was when the poll workers were attempting to measure out the 50-foot neutral zone with an inadequate measuring tape. Officer O-bie got out the o-fficial, cop approved, auto accident incident reporting, 500 foot measuring tape to determine the e-xact distance in all directions that campaigners and all their official, partisan, biased, propagandizing and usually totally ineffective campaign literature were banned, barred, contraband and highly illegal.

Official Tape Measure, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

He duly marked the distance with an orange cone and gave a stern warning that this was the official no propaganda zone. Officer Obie then proceeded to get the facts, "just the facts ma'am", from all points of view, left to right, attorneys for both sides and carefully scribed them in his official Police memo pad.

Just the Facts, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

At one point 3 deputy sheriffs escorted the poll worker and the portable touchscreen ballot out to another disabled voter just in case some militant campaign worker might try to palm off another card on another unsuspecting voter. The Bush workers carefully eyed the situation from the other side of the 50-foot demilitarized zone. But Officer Obie (whatever his real name is) really was doing a very diplomatic job in what he must have thought of as a ludicrous situation.

This was unlike the 2000 election, which saw major incidents of people denied their right to vote and many people turned away as the polls closed. I left the polling place filled with optimism.

Sunsetting on 6c and Kerry, originally uploaded by iceemaster.

I later arrived at the Kerry-Edwards victory gathering some time after 9:00 pm. Things were looking up, as the news was filled with major turn-outs of voters which usually is good for the democrats. The pinnacle of my hopeful feelings was when Pennsylvania went to Kerry big time. But soon the reports were filled with more and more bad news. Florida fell to Bush and then the long agonizing wait for the Ohio vote began.

The depression was a steady slide down, down, down, Wednesday morning was bad. The Kerry concession speech and Bush victory speech just made it worse. I listened to them in the airport on my way back north to home. I still am reeling of the impact. Every time I think of the future it just is so dark and foreboding. I try to find a silver lining to this storm cloud…to fit with my rose colored glasses view of the world. I can only think of one…that the world is in such awful shape for the next 2 years and beyond…the problems would have been blamed on Kerry…. Now Bush and the Republican congress must shoulder the full responsibility. But this is of little consolation.

I am disheartened, depressed, fearful, disgusted, and shamed. The world must look at Americans as arrogant, idiotic, religious fanatics filled with avarice and fear and revenge.

I can console myself only slightly with the fact that I tried to do something about it …and that more people voted AGAINST a sitting President than at any time in our history.

But I still feel like shit!!!!!!


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