In January I was a “first time” voter in Taiwan’s presidential election. In March I was one of two “first time” election inspectors where I “worked” the Michigan Presidential Primary election on March 10th. Voting was much the same in both places, though it seemed more joyful in Taiwan.
At the polling station here in Michigan, there were two separate precincts in the same room. I was first posted at the greeting table, where I helped people discover whether they would vote on the west or the east side of the room. They had to fill out and sign an application card giving their address, then turn that card in at a later station before putting their marked ballots into a box. After a couple hours as a greeter, I was moved to the “tear the stubs off of completed ballots and pass out stickers” station. Eventually I also got to “give people blank ballots” at a different station. So now, except for running the computer and sealing up records and ballots at the end of the day, I can do most of the needed stuff.
I enjoyed every different job I did. As a greeter I was occasionally privileged to use Spanish to help people get started. As the guy who tore the stubs off of ballots and issued “I voted” stickers, I was able to be all smiles and “thank yous”.
Twice I was informed of what appeared to have been an out-of-town voter suppression effort. Two different women mentioned that they had received postcards from something called the “Michigan Voters’ Project” informing them that there was no record that they’d ever voted, so they should go to the city clerk to clear things up before wasting their time going to vote. Each of these women mentioned that she never misses an election. The first was an elderly and white, the second was elderly and Hispanic.
The day after the election I received notice by email that I’d neglected to sign a paper to enable the city to pay me for my service, so I should visit the clerk’s office. While there, signing one thing, I relayed the information about the postcards. Whether or not it comes to anything, or means anything, or was misunderstood by all of us, at least the news of it no longer sits on my conscience.
Next time I work the polls (there are 4 elections in Michigan this year), I’ll try to be a voter greeter for as much of the day as they’ll let me. Maybe this will expand, and, who knows, I could work my way up to a position at Walmart!
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.