I'm supposed to be writing this about all the reasons why you should sign up to work in a polling place this Election Day, June 5.
Funny. Right now, all I can think of is all the reasons why you shouldn't - not least among them the fact that it is a really, really long day. Like, 15 hours or more, long.
I know this from over 10 years of experience, working as a clerk, then overseeing a polling place as an inspector and, now supervising several polling places as a coordinator. It's not always easy, but there is something that pulls me back, election after election, and will probably keep me doing this work as long as they let me.
The best way to describe it was something that happened the night of the last presidential election, when Barack Obama got elected. That night, I checked my last precinct, run by an elderly black couple. They had the TV on (the polls were closed, so it was okay) and were watching Obama's victory speech with tears in their eyes. And yet, they still had the little red box of ballots that made that speech possible.
When I think about it, it's that little red box where the ballots are placed after they've been counted to make sure all the ballots are accounted for - it's that little box that makes that long day so very worthwhile.
At the end of Election Day, hundreds of little red boxes in Los Angeles County make their way in the lap of a pollworker riding shotgun with his or her inspector to the collection point, where those boxes will be taken to the County HQ in Norwalk, then fed into a computer, which will tell us who will represent us in our courtrooms as judges, on various boards, in the County Supervisors Chambers, in the Statehouse, and in Congress.
Those red boxes contain our collective voice. And getting those ballots marked and ultimately into that red box is why it's so insanely satisfying to work a poll. Leave your politics 100 feet away from the door to the polling place. Once you are a pollworker, it's all about helping everyone vote.
This is the democratic process at its best. The rules that exist are there because of past abuses - most of which were aimed at keeping people out of the polls. And your job is to make it as easy for people to come in as possible. You, as a pollworker, make democracy happen, and it's a feeling like no other.
There is a stipend, not enough to make the hours worth it, but this isn't about the money. It's about stepping outside yourself and seeing the larger community. As I go from polling place to polling place, I run into friends all the time. I've even made a few.
You have until Saturday to sign up - that's when the last training classes are being held. You can go to www.lavote.net, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and find the Pollworker Center box and click there. Or you could just call 800-815-2666 (Option 7). Either way, give it a try. The day may be long, but the feelings of pride and satisfaction are even longer.