I knew I had to be up early this morning for the nonpartisan election protection volunteering thing, and I woke up at one, checked the clock, fell back asleep, woke up half an hour later, and so on until five, when I got up. Now I know what it's like to be a cat. At five-forty, I caught a lift with Sharon to Norristown, and thence we went to Market East where I sat, drank coffee, and read When Gravity Fails while I waited for another train to take me out to a suburb of Philadelphia, where I met an affable lawyer named Brian who was my teammate for the day.
It was the first time we'd volunteered to do this for both of us. The work involved going to every polling place in the area (and there are lots, and it was exhausting) and checking that nobody was terribly disgruntled, that the signs weren't too close to the doors, all the notices were up and in both Spanish and English, and so on, and chatting with the judge of elections to see whether the machines were all working and everything was going according to plan. Most were pleased to see us; some weren't; a few were rather hostile. Notable happy and not so happy parts included:
- The place where the poll workers were handing out peppermints to the voters.
- The place where the judge of elections was wearing a campaign badge (yes, honestly).
- The polling place which was, as far as I could tell, in a priest's house, where the priest was sitting outside and smiling a welcome to everyone coming in, next to a huge "VOTE!" sign he had bought with his own money, and he had laid on coffee and bagels inside.
- The place where only one party's campaigners had bothered to show up (actually, that part was pretty common), and they had someone sitting right next to the door of the voting room handing out leaflets saying which way to vote.
- The JoEs who smiled at you and told you this was their 34th year in the job.
- The place where the JoE was attempting to run the whole show on his own and was not putting up any Spanish posters or, as far as I could tell, allowing the ticket of any party but one to be listed. We got to this place just as another team were phoning the powers that be about it, and two rather angry officials from the other major party had just arrived.
But mostly everything was going well. All the ballots had space where the Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Constitution Party and SWP could have run candidates, but I don't remember seeing any third-party candidates actually listed other than a small scattering of Greens here and there. This is probably connected to the huge barriers Pennsylvania puts in the way of third parties getting onto the ballot. By the way, they use Guardian machines in Philadelphia County (as in the picture above, other than the caption), not those Diebold things you might have heard about.
Eventually Brian dropped me off at Suburban Station. City Hall has a huge "VOTE RENDELL" sign outside. The journey home was probably pessimal: it took a little over three hours (half an hour's wait, an hour on the train, fifty minutes' wait, an hour on the bus) before I got in. I had been meaning to get some work done, but I was way too tired.
And we've just heard that Santorum has conceded, and Rendell's looking like a winner yet again.