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Tuesday November 2, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Until two years ago, we used a pencil to mark the ballots, folding them carefully before stuffing them into the box. Now there’s a fancy vote-counting machine, and we use special black pens to fill in the ovals, like standardized tests. Afterward, we don’t fold; we simply slip the ballot any-which-way into the sleek black tabulator.

I worked the polls today (why does that sound like something it’s not?). My 5-hour shift was 9 til 2. I signed in and swore an oath. This small town has a list of about a thousand. Roughly a quarter voted while I was there, arriving in a constant stream—so constant that I had to eat my BLT a bite here and a bite there, whenever I could sneak it.

There’s an oath a voter has to take too, to register in Vermont, the Freeman’s Oath, swearing that you’ll follow your conscience “without fear or favor of any man.” I took this oath at the town dump. It was administered to me by a state representative who wanted petition signatures. It was very Northern Exposure.

Today I checked voters in (A through Leslie, while Teresa covered Levine through Z). They check in, vote, check out. My check-in count needs to match my check-out counterpart’s, and the total count needs to match the counting machine.

Voters must state their name aloud and confirm their address. I ask for the address; they see I have it right in front of me; they think I’m crazy.

Several people check in, take a ballot, realize their reading glasses are in the truck, leave the ballot, run out for their glasses.

The farmers reek of fertilizer. We are all used to that.

And Edie, who is walking now, flirted with me the whole time her mama was in the booth.


1. Craig Smith - November 2, 2010

I’m heartbroken that they’ve done away with paper ballots. It seemed so real, somehow; more authentic.

The Freeman’s Oath brings back wonderful memories. I think the day took the oath, in the Town Clerk’s office, I knew I belonged in Vermont. (You see how well that worked out!)

2. helen - November 3, 2010

The town dump? Seriously?

3. Bridgett - November 3, 2010

That’s a beautiful set of images, town dump and all. I love the freeman’s oath. We don’t have anything so…honest and free…in Missouri. They don’t ask for my address; they mispronounce my last name and forget the alphabet and I pull out my license even though I’m not supposed to have to do that, and then they still can’t find me and I point to my husband’s name right there, right there on the page, and they jerk the book away from my finger. And then say, “oh, here you are,” like I’ve been hiding on purpose.

4. indigo bunting - November 3, 2010

Helen: Yes. It was fabulous. The town dump has now been closed, and I drive to a neighboring New York town.

B: We only take the Freeman’s Oath once, when we register. I have to admit, even I had trouble finding some names that were right in front of me, and the woman next to me said, “I hope no one hears me going through the alphabet…” And my list was about 500 people. I imagine things get crazy and frustrating in the city for all involved. And no doubt you WERE hiding it on purpose…that would be so like you, to mess with the poll workers in your “spare time.”

5. Mali - November 3, 2010

Not unlike voting in NZ. Except we still count by human. And we don’t take an oath in the town dump. That’s wonderful!

6. indigo bunting - November 3, 2010

The humans who were counting by hand are happy for the machine. They still have an hour’s work or so to do after the polls close (and maybe much more if numbers don’t add up).

7. Lali - November 4, 2010

Echoes of E.B. White in this post. Beautiful.

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