Working the Polls on Election Day, Democracy on the Ground.

Monday: 11:30 am

Arrive at City Hall for a Thompson rally, the crowd builds, the union distributes blue “”Thompson for Mayor” shirts …. a couple of hundred fill the steps of City Hall, a sea of blue, the media is there in force, Thompson shows up and delivers a vigorous speech … the media shouts out questions and Thompson patiently answers, an upbeat rally … As we were waiting on line to go through security/scanning outside of City Hall a young man asks me what’s going on, I explain, he’s unaware of the candidates although he totally dislikes Bloomberg.

I ask, “Do you vote?”

He replies, “I voted for Obama, no, I usually don’t vote, there’s no difference and one vote doesn’t matter”

I go into my “teacher” rant: “Every vote counts, this is a democracy, we can only keep a democracy if we all participate, and we all have a responsibility to be a knowledgeable voter – what issue pisses you off the most?”

“Stop and frisk – the cops stop me all the time.”

“One of the candidates will be mayor, he or she will pick a police commissioner, they decide policies, don’t just bitch, vote.”

He looks at my UFT shirt and laughs self-consciously, “You sound like one of my teachers.”

Monday: 11:00 PM

I leaflet my building with a personal letter recommending candidates based on a few neighborhood issues.

Tuesday: 8:00 AM

Vote – I’m number 39 – last year I had to wait two hours to vote in the presidential election – this time no wait at all. At the requisite distance from the polling place pamphleteers handing out lit for their candidate … between the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, the borough president and the city council I count twenty candidates, I have been getting 4-5 pieces of lit in the mail every day – mostly from the borough prez candidates.

Hang out in my lobby (the polling place is in the community room of my building) and chat with neighbors – some “thank you” comments for my letter recommending candidates. In my neighborhood voters either vote on their way to work or after work, looks like a low turnout.

Tuesday: 10: 00 AM

One of the pamphleteers is screaming at voters as they enter the polling place – some heated comments from the other pamphleteers, the Community Relations officer explains the rules – tempers cool.

Tuesday: 3:00 PM

Speak to the polling place director – he expected a lot busier day. Some confusion with the old manual machines – a little hard to locate all the candidate names – and you really have to jerk the handles.

Tuesday: 6:00 PM

Off to Brooklyn to help in a City Council race – will hand out flyers outside of a polling place for a few hours and back to campaign headquarters. The captains are reporting in … they’re knocking on doors reminding neighbors to vote … checking on voter turnout by election district … setting up a lit distribution for people returning from work. Your GOTV (“get out the vote”) efforts win and lose elections, no matter the number of mailings it always comes down to getting your guys/gals to the poll. Fascinating to watch the pros checking the turnouts by the hour, shifting volunteers from polling place to polling place to bus stops and train stations, all politics is local.

Tuesday: 9:15 PM

The poll watchers start returning to the headquarters with tally sheets. We’re watching the president’s speech at the same time. The returns look good; we’re getting the right counts at the right polling places although the Thompson tallies are far below expectations in heavily Afro-American election districts.

Tuesday: 11:00 PM

The headquarters are packed, over 100 workers as Frank Seddio steps to the microphone – announces, “We won ….,” to cheers and applause. The workers are the rainbow that is New York: White, Caribbean, Haitian, Afro-American, mostly older, The candidate, Alan Maisel, thanks the workers and singles out for special thanks the key players, and especially points out the UFT teachers who volunteered to man the phones and watch at the polling places.

Tuesday: Midnight

Everyone’s exhausted, the poll watchers arrived at 5:30 AM. De Blasio is hovering at 40%; Thompson gave a rousing, “We will fight to count the last votes” speech. Frank is really concerned about November 5th; will a battle to an October 1 runoff so weaken the winner that Lhota, the Republican can become the third straight Republican mayor in an overwhelmingly democratic city?

No one is sure…


One response to “Working the Polls on Election Day, Democracy on the Ground.

  1. I have seen plenty of Bill DiBlasios in my time. Folks riding in on white horses to fix race relations in this city. Its the biggest hoax since the shell game.To run for Mayor of NYC and have as your centerpiece the mission of putting an end to STop and frisk and do so because it is an outcome of racial profiling by the police dept is just trying to sell bad beans. Its akin to Obama making the closing of Gitmo the centerpiece or at least 1 of the centerpieces of his domestic platform. You dont tear dwon something that is working. Racial profiling can be attacked in so many other ways. With regard to police, they can improve their own in take procedures when bringing in new recruits. There are pshiactric approaches that could be incorporated intheir entry level exams and interviews. Once on the job, Lieutenents and other supervisory officers should have the training to monitor and look for signs of behavior by officers with regard to racial profiling. And while I do agree that Mr. DiBlasios family is a lovely one with charm, dignity, intelligence,I cannot let those factors alone sway my vote. Not electing Bill THompson, in the final nalysis, would be a huge error in judgement by New Yorkers.


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