Free-Floating Hostility

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In Which FFH Saves Democracy

"So who do you think the Republican plants were?" the middle-aged white lady asked her friend as they got into our elevator Saturday afternoon. We were leaving a building in Downtown Madison that appeared to house the local offices of every progressive organization in the world. We attended Election Protection training session for volunteer poll watchers in a conference room across from the National Organization for Women's door.

"Maybe it's him," said her friend, another white empty-nester ex-soccer mom, and pointed at me. "He did say he was a recovering journalist."

I just laughed. It's an amusing idea that the Republican Party would have somehow infiltrated a gathering of 15 people in Madison to listen as Stacy, one of those dreaded community organizers, went through a PowerPoint presentation on how to stand in one place for 7-14 hours and write things down. I used to do that full time, although there were usually people bringing food around while I was doing it. I doubt that will be the case on November 4, although we can always hope.

For us, saving democracy involved kosher doughnuts and environmentally friendly coffee cups. The job of an election observer is to observe. We'll stand in a designated area and write down everything that happens in case lawyers need it later. And if we see something exceptionally bad, we can call the lawyers (referred to as "briefcases") straight away. Wisconsin voting law is actually really inclusive and the city of Madison has printed one ballot for every voting-age resident, which is unheard of. In Madison, the fear is that GOP folks will talk students out of voting by convincing them they aren't really residents. In Milwaukee, the concern is more old-fashioned armed intimidation in minority neighborhoods. We're still waiting on our assignments.

The good news is we have an afternoon shift, which should keep me away from the exit polls for a few hours. Rereading my Election ramblings from 2004, that's probably best for everyone involved.

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