What Fresh Hell Is This?

November 8, 2004

For The Record

As I've mentioned before, I was a volunteer for PA Victory '04. On election day, I worked as a poll checker/watcher. There were two training sessions for this duty. The first explained that poll checkers would receive cards containing the names of all the Democratic sporadic voters in a precinct.

"Sporadic" meaning folks who do not vote in 1 to 2 out of the last 4 elections. As each person came in to vote, the poll checker would check their list and remove the cards of any sporadic voters who showed up to the polls. Runners would periodically come by to collect the names and take them make to central staging area. Sporadic's who had not voted by a certain time would then be given reminder calls/visits to go vote.

I am not revealing any heavy duty secrets here as the Republicans were doing the exact same thing.

The "poll watcher" section of the training consisted of being informed of the legal rights of voters and how to counterchallenge challenges Republican poll watchers might make towards Democratic voters. We were also informed that we would be given a special hotline # for our legal team on election day (they feared giving it out to us the night before in case it might slip into Republican hands who might then try to jam the phone line).

And therein lies the rub. While both I and my Republican counterpart were ostensibly there to do the same job, it became clear to me that as poll watchers in a largely Democratic district, I was there to ensure that people could vote and she was there to prevent voting if she could.

I was stationed in Baldwin Boro -- a place from what I could see -- which was overwhelmingly white. At one point, the Republican poll watcher made the comment that she was, "...glad that they hadn't put her in the Hill District or East Liberty." "I'm glad they put me in someplace civilized where I don't have to worry about a lot of voter irregularities."

For anyone reading this who does not know it (or hasn't guessed it): the two "uncivilized" districts that she mentioned are largely composed of African American residents. She was obviously warned to expect to have to challenge voters in those districts and she was happy to have a relatively easy gig in the white suburbs (above and beyond whatever other "fears" she may have had about the "projects" that she gossiped about with a Republican clerk).

Please note that at the legal training we were also informed that the Democrats had discovered that every Crown Victoria car in the state had been rented out for election day. What is the significance of this, you may ask? Crown Vics are used by the police. This is the car model that was used in Florida by Republicans in Florida in 2000 to intimidate African American voters. The idea is to park them outside polling places and staff them with white guys in suits who appear to be taking down names, license plate # 's or taking photographs of voters.

And you probably thought that this crap only took place below the Mason-Dixon line.

I will say that the Republican poll watcher at my post didn't challenge any voter (that I saw). I can't say that her actions would have been the same if she had been sent to someplace less "civilized." (gag)

As I had been instructed to "not make any trouble for the paid poll workers" I did not get into an argument over the nasty comments made about the state of civilization in various neighborhoods. But it does feel good to put it down for the record here.

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