Monday, November 3, 2008

True Stories from the Board of Elections

WARNING: LONG, TEXT-HEAVY POST!

I was just looking at my blog, and realized I haven't posted since November 4th. I didn't realize it had been that long. I've been meaning to post, but seven hours a day of answering phone calls from irate and/or confused voters, not to mention answering the same questions over and over and over, for the past month, has left me exhausted. Since Election Day is nigh (thank God - I am burned out hearing and talking about ballots!), here's a little sampling of some true phone calls we've received in the registration department at the Board:

Voter: "I am a Native American woman, and I read my Bible every day. My husband, God help his soul, is a Republican. I'm a Democrat, and I want to know why my husband received his absentee ballot in the mail, and I haven't received mine. Are you only sending out ballots to Republicans?"


Voter: "I received my absentee ballot, and I want to know why John McCain is at the bottom of the list of presidential candidates".
Me: "The candidates are printed in a random order. They are in a different order on every ballot".
Voter: "Why is that?"
Me: "To avoid the appearance of the Board favoring any one candidate".
Voter (sounding doubtful): "Is Barack Obama at the bottom of any ballots?"
Me: "I'm quite sure he is"
Voter: "I don't believe that. I want to speak to a supervisor".

Voter: "I'm filling out my absentee ballot. Should I use a black or a navy blue crayon to complete it?"


Voter: "I'd like to know how I can vote by absentee ballot".
Me: (Explaining the absentee ballot process)
Voter: "Oh, I thought I could just tell you my votes over the phone".


Voter (who starts screaming as soon as I answer the phone): "I received an absentee ballot, and voted for the president. I put it in the mail and just realized that my ballot only had the presidential candidates and judges listed. Where's all the other idiots I've been hearing about on TV, those congresspeople. I wanted to vote for them too!"
Me: "Ma'am, every ballot lists all of the presidential candidates, judges, congressional races, and local issues. There are four pages to the ballot (two double-sided pages marked "vote both sides" in bold lettering).
Voter (still screaming): " This is bullshit! My ballot only had two pages. I know I only received two pages because I'm a Republican. I'm tired of this Democratically controlled county, and I'd better receive a new ballot or I'm going to the media, and not the Fox 8 News (a local news station), I'm going to CNN and the national news.

Voter: "I'd like to know when I'm going to receive my asbentee ballot".
Me: (Gathering caller's name and address to see if we sent out the ballot). "Ma'am, I don't show that we've received an application for a ballot from you".
Voter (screaming): "I sent in applications twice, for both me and my mother."
Me: "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but we haven't received the applications".
Voter: "You're a liar (spewing obscenities at me)!" I sent in those applications and I know they're there! You probably threw them away because I'm a Republican! Those applications had better turn up by Wednesday, or I'm going to the media!"
Me: "Let me have you speak to my supervisor (because I don't get paid enough money to be cussed at).
Later my supervisor tells me the caller told her to "go to hell", and the supervisor told her, "Well, I wouldn't tell you something like that". Caller finally decides to just vote at the polls.


Voter: "There's a group home at the corner of my street, and someone came by to take the residents to vote. Are mentally retarded people allowed to vote?"
Employee (hilarious 75 year old temp employee): "Well, they're allowed to run for office (ha, ha!!)"


Voter: "I just sent in my ballot, and I realized that I forgot to vote for the vice president!"
Employee: "The vice president and president are elected together. If you vote for a presidential candidate, you automatically vote for their running mate as well. You can't mix and match presidents and vice presidents (ha, ha!)".


Voter: "I looked online to see if my absentee ballot was received by you guys, and it says it was challenged".
Me (looking up the information): "Yes sir, it says your ballot was challenged because you did not fully complete the identification envelope. You'll receive a letter from the Board giving you until November 14th to come in and fix the errors in person so your ballot will be counted".
Voter: "My ballot was just challenged because I'm a Republican".
Me: "No sir, we've had plenty of Democratic ballots challenged as well".
Voter: "Well, what if I can't come down to the Board to fix it? What if I'm incapacitated?".
Me: "Let me get your phone number, and I'll have someone from our absentee ballot department call you to see what else you can do".
Voter: "OK, I'll give you my work number, I'm at work right now" (hmmm, he's incapacitated, but he's still able to work???)

Voter: "I received a letter saying my absentee ballot was challenged because I did not put my ballot in the ID envelope".
Me (looks up voter's information: "Yes, that's correct. You'll need to come down to the board in person to correct it for your ballot to be counted".
Voter: "They're (Republicans) trying to keep my vote down, mmmm, hmmm, but no, sir, I'm not going to let them!".

Voter (male - speaking to my pretty, young, coworker, Lola): "Does my registration say whether I'm married or single?"
Coworker: "No, it doesn't".
Voter: "Well, I'm single. You sound pretty."
Coworker (laughing): "I am!" (and then proceeds to get asked out on a date by caller, ha, ha!)

You can imagine what a month this has been for me. If I hear one more conspiracy theory from a voter, I'm going to pull my hair out! Now, this doesn't even include the many voters who want to tell me in great detail their opinions of the election system, the wording of issues on ballots, and the voting process. I want to tell them I'm a measly $10 an hour temp; I have no control over the election system. I've been biting my tongue, being as pleasant and cheerful as I can manage, and counting down the days until this election is over.

Today I received 207 calls in 6.5 hours. Yep, that's approximately 31 calls an hour. I'm tired. As one of my (Republican) coworkers put, "I wish these people who are accusing us of things could just come down here to work for a day and see what really goes on". My thoughts exactly! We are absolutely, incredibly, nonstop busy. There's barely time to breathe let alone worry about people's poltical affliation.

The job isn't all bad though. For the most part I like my (well, most of them, anyway) coworkers. I've met some other temps who have been really great. One lady (who is also looking for a permanent job for after this one ends) and I have been exchanging job hunting tips, and news of job openings, and encouraging each other in the job search. Laughing about crazy calls from voters helps relieve the aggravation too. A few ladies from our absentee ballot department had me cracking up one day when they told me about how some voters (who are required to provide identification information when requesting an absentee ballot) in lieu of a driver's license number or photocopy, have sent photos of themselves. One lady sent a photo of her and her boyfriend on vacation at the beach, complete with herself circled. Another lady sent a photo of herself standing in her front lawn, holding an American flag, her house address visible in the background. Ha, ha!

I must say though that not every phone call I've gotten has been from someone rude or just plain dumb. I've gotten some really nice phone calls - people who have gone out of their way to be polite to me and people who have been genuinely appreciative of the help I've given them. One lady told me "Thank you for your service during this election season". Another told me, "You know, people always complain about the Board of Elections, but everyone I've spoken to there has been so nice and helpful".

And, I must admit, it makes me feel good to see so many people excited about the election. One young woman, just turned 18, voting for the first time, asked me when the election results would be shown on the news. She said when she was younger, she always liked watching the results come in state by state, and she's looking forward to voting and watching the results on TV. Another young woman, a college student, called about her absentee ballot. I told her it had been mailed, and to please be patient, because we had over 250,000 requests for ballots. She sounded nearly in tears when she told me how happy she is that so many people want to vote. I've gotten calls from people who haven't voted in 20+ years who want to vote now. Calls from felons fresh out of prison who are thrilled to hear they can still vote (in Ohio they can vote; they just have to re-register). Calls from people who are hospitalized with serious illnesses, but still want to vote (the Board has employees who go to the hospitals to help patients vote absentee).

I went to work this past Saturday to earn some overtime, and got recruited to help out the poll workers in the basement. We were only supposed to be open from 9-1 for voting on Saturday, but people started lining up at 8AM that morning. By 1PM, there was a line of people stretched from the poll workers tables, all through the room, down the hallway, up two flights of stairs, in the lobby, and all the way down the street three blocks away. The county sheriff had to go out and cut off the line at 1:30PM, but there were so many voters that the last one in line finished voting at 3PM. Apparently, we're the place to be these days, because we've gotten visits from a few celebrities (the rapper Lil' Bow Wow was there, and of course all the young ladies ran down to the lobby to gush over him), from the mayor of Cleveland, and from the secretary of state, among others. All of the local news stations have been in and around the building taping segments, and CNN even sent Anderson Cooper to visit the Board and do a story. CNN has had a news truck camped outside for days. I must admit, as aggravating as the job has been at times, it has also been pretty interesting getting a first-hand look at how the election process works.

In other news, I almost forgot to mention that I had a job interview today, for a position with my alma mater, Cleveland State University. OK, it's just a secretarial position with the law college, but hey, it pays better than the pitiful $10 an hour I'm making now, and I'm pretty sure it's a union position too, not to mention that I'd have some health insurance. Bringing home $600 every two weeks after taxes, with no medical insurance or vacation time, just isn't cutting it. The interview went pretty well, I think. They're supposed to make a hiring decision by Friday. Please keep your fingers crossed that I get the job. My husband is back to working 5 days a week, but his company is still planning on shutting down for two weeks unpaid at Christmastime, so I sure can't afford to be unemployed then (the job at the Board is expected to end around November 28th, if not sooner).

Well, I've got to get to bed so I'll have the energy to deal with another couple hundred phone calls tomorrow. At least I'm not scheduled to work tomorrow night. A lot of my coworkers have to work their regular shift, then head over to the Board's warehouse to open, sort, scan, and count ballots. They're (literally) going to be there all night, looking at about an 18-20 hour shift tomorrow.

A couple other temps have griped because I haven't been working 12+ hour days like many of them, but with 10 year old and 5 year old kids, and a husband who works nights, I just can't do it. I sure could use the extra money, but no way am I leaving my kids home alone early in the morning (before my husband gets home from work) so I can get to work at 7AM, not to mention that with an hour and a half, two bus commute, I'd have to leave the house at 5:30AM just to get there by 7. No thanks. I've been upfront with the supervisors in my department about my situation with the kids and my husband's work schedule, and they've been OK with it, so I don't give a &%$# what a few coworkers have to say about it. My kids, my family, and my safety are going to come first over this job.
Well, off to bed. Stay tuned for some crochet project photos in a couple of days!

5 comments:

Bezzie said...

Bah yeah I had to pass up some sweet OT b/c of having a kid (my firm does election law so when those crazies that call you file lawsuits and complaints--it's our guys that come into action!) so I feel you!!

But like you said, at least the crazies *care*. Ha ha!

Christina said...

Ok, I laughed so hard at some of those that tears were streaming down my face. The crayon one is just plain awesome!

Katrina said...

These stories were hilarious!!! I actually printed them off and read them to my husband and Mom this morning. Though I know it's exhausting handeling all those calls. And I'm sure you've learned more than you ever wanted to know about the election proces!!! It will all be over soon.

Deneen said...

Laura, I have heard the same and honestly, after an 17.5 hour workday on Election Day, I was literally slurring my speech and to the point where I was just like "Vote a provisional ballot and leave me alone". The calls, the calls-one woman asked me to look up where she had to vote, but couldn't tell me the town she lived in. I found her name and then she asked "Oh, am I registered?". I told her I was psychic and was able to figure it out by mental telepathy through the phone-I think she bought it.

naida said...

oh my gosh!! these are too funny.

wouldnt it be great if we could randomly mix and match presidents and vice presidents? lol
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