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November, 2004

Election Protection

By Elenor Denker

Editor's Note: This is eighth in a series of writings on the election. Thanks to everyone who has participated and if you are interested in having your thoughts published email them to writing@noahbrier.com.

I spent Election Day protecting citizens' rights to vote – granted, I was in a heavily Democratic precinct in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Generally I live in NYC, and have participated in this election season mostly by computer, often with my credit card handy.

It was a very warm, sunny day in Fort Lauderdale. We be-friended Diane, the Kerry poll worker, a grandmother and fervent Democrat; and Mike, the school official, also part of the local DNC, and an Israeli; and Eduardo, the Supervisor of the Precinct, who explained how all machines in Florida are cleared to zero when they reach the site, and that those tapes are printed and taped to the wall at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. I wore the red shirt which said "Usted tiene el derecho de votar" – (You have the right to vote) and I was available to help English speaking voters and Spanish speaking voters.

Diana was the first person I helped. She had gone into the poll (where I was not permitted, except by invitation of a voter), and they couldn't find her name on the list of registered voters for that precinct. There was one poll worker who, on a cell phone, called into Ft. Lauderdale headquarters to someone who was looking at the official list. Once the voter was found, s/he was told the correct precinct and went off to vote there (hopefully). However, Diana wasn't found on the county list either. I knew, from my training the night before in Miami, that Diana should have been permitted to fill out an affidavit about where she lived, and then permitted to fill out a provisional ballot. I called 1-800-OUR-VOTE, and Diana spoke with an attorney (Spanish-speaking), who told her the same thing. The attorney told her to invite me to go back into the poll and help her. So I put my light blue t-shirt over the bright red Election Protection shirt (no campaigning inside), and we went back in. We got on the line and after about 10 minutes, two Election Protection attorneys who were in a roving crew, showed up.

It took over an hour, but I am proud to say that Diana eventually was able to complete her provisional ballot. She will find out in a week or two whether her vote was accepted. She knows who she voted for – I don't. But I hope she is as devastated as I am with the results of this election.

Elenor Denker is a Human Resources VP and a card-carrying liberal activist of many decades, beginning with her years in the Peace Corps. There are few people in the world who give better advice on anything and everything.

November 4, 2004
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