Friday, January 22, 2010

Six voters

My assigned task for the Martha Coakley campaign on Special Election day was to drive voters who could not get themselves to the polls. At first I only had three folks to drive, all southeast of my hometown, and figured I would get to return to finish the day holding signs or making a few last ditch Get The Vote Out (GTVO) calls.

The first voter, the note said, used a wheelchair. I arrived at the apartment building, Mrs. D buzzed me in, and I rode up the elevator to her floor. Turning down the hall I was immediately struck by the medicinal smell of a nursing home, although this was a mixed use building. Her door was all the way at the end and slightly ajar. I knocked and opened the door to find a tiny, frail woman sitting in a motorized wheelchair.

After switching to a chair I would push, and attaching Mrs. D's oxygen tank, we locked up and started down the hall. She proceeded to rail, in her tiny voice, about people in her building "who aren't even registered to VOTE!" She continued, aghast "Can you imagine?"

We arrived at my mini-van and she struggled mightily to get herself up into the passenger seat. As we started to drive I mentioned which polling station I was taking her to and she felt pretty strongly that she voted at another location. I suggested we go to the one I was told and run in to ask. She agreed.

I entered the large church hall only to find two precincts voting in that location. It became apparent I was asking for someone else and when I finished explaining Mrs. D's situation, a clerk declared "Well you should just bring her ballot to the car. Let me get one of the police officers to escort you". And like that I was able to bring a ballot and pen to Mrs. D and she voted in my van. It was an honor to have my dingy van be the site of something so important.

Another voter later in the day became a US citizen 35 years ago. Mr. A was born in Trinidad and Tribago but raised his three sons in the big city. He had a prosthetic leg, above the knee, that kept popping out requiring him to stop and either have me push it back while sitting in his wheelchair or he would rearrange it so he could stand. It took him 30 minutes to get out of his house.

While driving to the polls he talked about how the United States was the greatest country in the world and that voting was very important. At one point he declared "Let's get Martha elected!" with a broad grin and a clap of his hands.

Coming back he mused "maybe I should have gotten an absentee ballot" so that he didn't have to vote at the polls. "But then I would've never met you!" I replied.

It took 30 minutes to get him back into his house, through the garage and up a winding staircase. I left him at the top of his stairs, on a mobile stair chair waving goodbye.

I drove others that day. An 88-year-old woman who had never missed an election since she was 21 ("we couldn't vote until we were 21" she reminded me). A 56-year-old man living in an assisted living facility who had suffered a massive stroke and asked my help to fill out his ballot since he couldn't find the dot to fill in. One woman who told me about how she missed out on her chance to vote for McGovern (and declared with pride that Massachusetts was the only state to vote for him) because she had emergency surgery that day.

While I was on the losing side of the election (in more ways than one), I did win in other ways. I helped six people vote. Six people who each had very good reasons, and in some cases many of them, to not vote.

So while I am still sorting out my anger and disappointment from other parts of the election, I am hopeful.

Because people vote.


Patois said...

I helped get folks to the polls the first time Nancy Pelosi ran for Congress. (I happened to be working for her opponent in the primary, a gent by the name of Harry Britt.) Anyway, I went into the booth with one blind woman, who then had me vote for Pelosi rather than Britt. Can I tell you how much that hurt? Particularly because my stupid ethics won over my instinct to just vote for Britt because the lady was blind.

Good for you for doing this. Sorry she didn't win.

soccer mom in denial said...

Patois - WHAT?!?! You drove someone voting for the OTHER CANDIDATE!? Wow. You are a good person.

I wondered if that would happen to me but it didn't.

Patois said...

I know. I know. It's haunted me ever since. Of course, perhaps that long-dead blind lady is the reason we have a lady speaker of the house.

Re your comment about my modest proposal to scam health insurance companies: I know there are many of you fine folks in your state. (Heck, my family is originally from there so I've got loads of cousins and aunts and uncles there.) I wish there had just been a scosh (sp?) more.

Anonymous said...

It's taken me some time to come down (up?) from the disappointment of this election, but not for a minute did I ever imagine you weren't up there giving it your all. Thank you from all of us for your effort. Sorry effort doesn't carry more votes for the full count. I know these folks benefited from meeting you, too.
You're a good one, you are.