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Report from the American front lines

My cousin Barbara was at a Bethesda, Maryland, polling station much of Tuesday; her husband Dan was there all day. Here’s what she wrote, giving more hope for civil society and democracy. Yes indeed, thank you to the volunteers who keep things like this going!

We had a really good experience working at the polls yesterday. The system is struggling with a shortage of volunteers, so we had a skeleton team and only one chief judge (instead of the usual two) to man 3 electronic pollbooks checking people into the system, two ballot marking devices, the ballot issuing table and two scanners, also doing same day registration of new voters and handling provisional voting (mostly of people who lost their mailed ballots or just thought it would be easier to come in person – a paperwork headache for everyone to ensure that they couldn’t vote twice).   

The only bad moment was when a woman Dan checked in said (when he offered her a pen to sign her voter affirmation card) “You probably don’t want me to use your pen – I have covid!”  Eeek.

But our team of 7 did a great job with a high voter turnout – almost 900 voters in a continuous stream of people all day long.  I only had to work from 6 am to 3 pm before my reliever came in, but Dan was there from 6 am to 9 pm.  

It was surprisingly inspiring to see how a group of 7 complete strangers could work together seamlessly, stepping in to help each other wherever backlogs started to appear – no prima donnas. All managed by a great chief judge (a remarkably calm, funny, and competent, Republican, middle-aged Catholic woman who had home-schooled her 3 college-age children). It gives you faith in the system.  Many people thanked us profusely for volunteering – a heart-warming, though utterly draining day.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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