By Stephanie R. South, TDC National Coordinator
On November 4, 2014, I went to the polls and not just to vote—to work them.
Yes, on Tuesday, I showed up at 6 a.m. (extremely large cup of coffee in hand) to a precinct in Northeast DC to volunteer as a check-in clerk for the Midterm Elections. Sixteen hours later, I headed home and did not move for the next 10 hours.
In addition to my surprise about how tiring sitting in a chair for 12+ hours and touching a computer screen could be, I observed a few things:
- In the District of Columbia, it’s easy to vote, and I think that’s a good thing.
If you can’t get out to vote (or don’t want to deal with the crowds) on Election Day, you can vote early or by absentee ballot. If you show up at the polls on Election Day in D.C., we don’t ask for identification, and whether it’s your precinct or not, you can still cast a ballot. Also, did you know that you can basically drive-thru vote these days? People who have circumstances or conditions that prevent them from coming in to vote at the polls can take advantage of a curbside service.
- People prepare.
I’ve always run with a bit of a politically oriented crowd; they were always the kids who discussed and debated candidates and legislation over coffee up until they went to the polls and as the returns came in. I thought they were the exception, not the rule. But as I checked in hundreds of voters this Election Day, I was surprised at the large number of people—especially young people—who came to the polls with handwritten notes about candidates and legislation, even for the small neighborhood commission races.
- Everyone should work the polls at least once.
Early start? Yes. Long day? Yes. Encounters with difficult people? Yes-though there was only one really bad one. However, I still think it was a very worthy endeavor. Not only did I end this Election Day feeling as though I had contributed significantly more than I usually do, but I learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes electoral process and the kind of voter that I want to be.
I encourage our TDC member institution faculty to not only work the polls if they have never done so but to encourage their students to get involved (and, if the need an extra incentive, it never hurts to tell a college student that there may be a little money involved).