The People You Meet by Chance

For a couple years I was a character on TV, “Uncle Taiwan”.  It was a cable show, at the conclusion of which I was given an unscripted minute to riff on a Taiwanese proverb or a Bible verse of someone else’s choosing. For anyone who’s really curious, some of those “minutes” are here: . After being on the screen for a while, I would sometimes be recognized at the immigration bureau or in a train station. Thankfully, after the cable station went off the air, these things passed. 

uncle Taiwan

On March 10th I was an election inspector in the Michigan Presidential Primary. Through the 13 hours that the polls were open, I did three different jobs in rotation. Sometimes I greeted people at the door and helped them sort out at which of the two stations in the room they would vote. Other times I was at the station where they presented their ballots in “privacy sleeves” for me to tear off the stub attached to it with a perforation, and for a couple of hours I was at the place where, after registrations were checked, I actually gave them blank ballots (either for the Republican primary or for the Democratic one, whichever they had requested). It was at this station that I encountered a convicted felon who is registered to vote just around the block from where I live. According to a recent newspaper article, he’s awaiting sentencing.

Because people had to check a box on their “application to vote today” cards opting to vote in one or the other primary, there was some skittishness. Legitimately it’s none of the state’s business what party one chooses to support. The problem is that in this election, being run BY the state FOR the parties, a voter could only receive one ballot, and had to request it. The man from around the block hadn’t checked either box, so I couldn’t give him a ballot from either stack in front of me. Had this not led to a short conversation, I’d never have even looked at the name on the preference card, or recognized his picture from the newspaper. 

All went well. A ballot was issued and a vote was cast. I think that apart from that man himself and me, nobody else in the station even knows that he came through the lines. It makes me feel good about having retired to Michigan where, as in Taiwan, everyone is welcome. 

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

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