netcurmudgeon (netcurmudgeon) wrote,

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Democracy at work

My mom is one of those anonymous "poll workers." She's been working election days here in town since I can remember. Several years ago she went through the training to be a Moderator (the person in charge of a polling place). Each year there's refresher training, and an ever-growing pile of paperwork and forms to fill out and sign to open, run, and close the polls. It's a work day that starts at 05:00 and ended at 23:40 this past Tuesday.

The Moderator is the go-to person at the polls. Someone comes in who filled out that motor-voter card at DMV but didn't understand that they had to mail it in to Town Hall to actually register? The Moderator gets to explain the law to them the give them a provisional ballot. Dispute over someone's party affiliation, or some irregularity about them having one address on their ID and a different address on the poll list? The Moderator gets to sort that out.

My mom's election work makes me very proud. It's a long, long day, at a mostly thankless job. But I know, that when she talks about service, her words are underscored by deeds. I know that there are crooked election officials, and incompetent ones, but it's competent, honest ones like my mother and the people she leads that make voting work.

Tonight she recounted something that came up Tuesday. It was a small thing, but it was something that showed government working the way it should. A woman came into the polls -- someone my mom didn't know, but was identified to her as a Democratic activist -- complaining about unattended Republican campaign signs that someone had placed on the lawn of the firehouse. They were outside of the 75' "exclusion" line, but the woman insisted that they shouldn't be there. A problem for the Moderator.

Not knowing the answer, my mom called in to the Registrars' office. They didn't have a ready answer. The Registrars told her to leave the signs up while they called the Secretary of State's office. This was apparently a novel question for them too; they researched state statute and called back an hour later: there is nothing in Connecticut law that prohibits placing political signs on the grounds of a polling place outside of the 75' line. But the Registrars had wanted to be thorough, so they had called the Town Manager, who researched the town ordinances. The Manager reported that the town's laws did indeed forbid placing political signs in the ground on Town property. It's fine to stand there and hold a sign, but you can't plant it and leave. The Registrars dispatched a machine mechanic to come out and collect the offending signs.

From the start, everyone took it seriously. First Amendment rights were respected, and everyone wanted to act in accordance with the law. In the end, the right thing was done. I heard a story about the election in Hartford on Tuesday that would make a perfect counterpoint to this one, but I'm not going to tell it. I think that I've proven beyond a doubt how broken things are in Hartford. It's time to talk about something going right. This is something that went right. There are still good people in government, and I'm proud that one of them is my mom.

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