Wednesday, November 03, 2004

All I saw of Democratic get-out-the-vote operations was my opposite numbers at Bellefonte West and their runner/supervisor, so I pretty much got the grunts-eye-view, but what I saw was pretty organized. They outnumbered me three-to-one, and were well-equipped. They were operating with blank, signed certificates, instead of specifically-assigned certificates, but one of them was the local organizer for the precinct, and she knew the neighborhood far, far better than I did. She more than made up for the two State College people who made up the rest of their pollwatching team. They cycled through as the day wore on, relieving each other and pacing themselves, while I just sat there and chugged. I think we operated at relatively equal efficiency; pollwatching isn’t really something that offers economies-of-scale - you’ve either got an attentive pollwatcher, or you don’t. Having two doesn’t give you any further benefits.

We both were striking off voters from our parties-and-interested-voters list, three columns across, strike the voter off by row as he or she votes. The runners came by for both teams at pre-arranged times, and collected a column at a time, carried off to feed the GOTV call banks. My voter’s list was a simple perforated continuous-feed roll, with the voter’s name, sex, party affiliation, phone number (if available) and registration number. Theirs was a much more complex and small-print set of 8-by-11 sheets in a similar three-column format, but with the addition of tiny addresses, and bar coding, presumably so that they could be scanned for automatic recorded-message calling. They had to mark when the voter voted on each column, which increased their work load; I just had to scratch off the voter across all current columns. This made it easier for me, but harder for the call bank people, who were making personal calls back at the victory center. That is, if they were working my lists at all. As I said earlier, Bellefonte West wasn’t a GOTV priority for the Republicans; I was there because I lived in the precinct.

Anyways, their sheets were harder to work with, and somebody had mucked things up and given them non-perforated sheets to use. They came equipped with scissors, so this was not a last-minute-cockup. The first time they had to separate a column, they managed to ruin the bar-codes, which apparently made that first column useless, and negated the first third of their calling operation from the results. They got it right the second time, and the third time, all we do is hand over the last of the columns, no detachment required.

I was as efficient as I would have preferred; I apparently missed Ray Gricar, the district attorney, when he came in with the judges and ministers. I suspect the other side made their own mistakes as well. I’ll be curious to see if the call bank people actually used what I gave to our runner. I’m still not sure if I accomplished anything other than helping the poll ladies break down the voting “machines” after they were turned off and no longer statute-sensitive. Those things are cleverly built - they fold down into compact, slightly oversized suitcases, with the legs folded under and clipped into slots recessed below the base of the “machine”. I say “machine” instead of machine, because these things are basically elaborate tables with table-lamps built into them; the only moving parts in them are designed to allow the contraption to fold in on itself for transportation and storage. I hadn’t touched the “machines” until the actual ballot-manipulating portions of the equipment had been removed and put over with the other sensitive material.

Most of the poll precinct was off limits to me and my dirty, partisan fingers, so I mostly stood around with my wrists clamped restlessly behind the small of my back, resisting the urge to be “helpful”. I hate standing around being useless.

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