Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Human Factor

A few words about yesterday’s election:

Money isn’t everything.

Aside from that, I will leave the analysis to the pros and the armchair pros.

Today’s story comes from my brief time working the polls yesterday. I came to support Vicky Cutroneo in the BOE race. My polling place, Talbott Springs Elementary, was pretty much deserted save for one nice woman with Apple Ballots and campaign materials for BOE Candidate Bob Glascock. So we set up shop together under the shade of an old tree.

I don’t know whether we influenced any voters. But I learned so much from talking to my partner at the polls. She had grown up with Mr. Glascock, or “Bobby”as she called him. They went to childhood birthday parties together. Her admiration for him was sincere. She’s now technically retired but works as a school recess monitor. Her son is a school janitor.

A lot of us who get all excited about local elections are pretty much from the same world. We have college degrees. have professional jobs, read a lot. We debate the finer points of candidates’ qualitifications and platforms. But, let me tell you, a personal testimony from a school recess monitor is one of the best experiences I had during the entire election season.

If you are running for BOE and still manage to maintain friendships with folks who are recess monitors and janitors (who know a lot of the inside dirt of what’s been going on at Central Office) well, that’s pretty impressive to me. I had already decided to vote for Mr. Glascock but the experience I had yesterday humanized him for me.

She pointed to the sign I was holding and said, ”now, I don’t know your lady,” and then it was my turn to make my case. Once I said the word “mold” she was nodding her assent. She knew all about that. School janitors knew all about that. And that was a whole new conversation.

So maybe working at the polls isn’t always about influencing voters. Maybe it’s about the people you meet. People you don’t normally have contact with in daily life. People who are different than you are. They are Howard County, too. They are a part of the workings of democracy, too.

I heard a few horror stories from friends who worked the polls yesterday. One who was told off for being an immigrant who “didn’t belong” at the polls. Another who lamented overhearing a group of poll workers/electioneers calmly disparaging folks of a different race. It’s not all sweetness and light out there. Some folks go to the polls and come home again and nothing about their worldview has changed.

My time yesterday with Theresa at Talbott Springs reminded me how important it is to be open to change, to learning something unexpected. It’s an experience I recommend for everyone.

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