On Election Day and Beyond: Now What?

Being witness to Democracy in Action is a privilege and an honor.  I have had that privilege for the past five elections. Besides the Presidential Election, this past Tuesday, November 2, 2010, was truly different in many ways.

I wanted to begin this with how I ended a very long but wonderful day. After I concluded my duties as Elections Coordinator for Area 47C (covering Laguna Niguel), I went out to Cannon’s in Dana Point to join the Election Night Party sponsored by Capistrano Children’s First. By the time I got there, it was not as crowded. All the candidates were there and the results were starting to come in. I knew it was going to be a while because  the last precinct I was supporting as Coordinator had just shut down around 10:05 PM. I made the rounds to wish all the candidates well and had a chance to finally meet John Alpay whom I had not met yet and was one of the victors. Although two of the candidates did not win, it was still quite an achievement to get Measure H approved and to get three of the five candidates elected to the Board.

My day, though, started quite early. It was a beautiful morning. The Sun had not come out, but the stars were still out as I worked my way up to hit the road. As I hit the road around 5:30 AM to visit my First Polling site at First Team Real Estate, I checked in with my Lead Coordinator. When I got to my first site, the Inspector and the clerks were already there starting to get things organized. They needed an additional resource which I facilitated to get. All of my precincts had already at the sites the night before and had done early setup. The team at First Team and all others had gone through the initial start-up that morning by doing the morning audits, administering the oath, firing up the JBC and accepting their first voter by 7 AM. This was also the case with all four precincts that I had the privilege to support as Coordinator. As I observed these guys, I truly wondered what the average voter truly understood how much work it actually takes to insure that the precincts are up and running.

I continued to make the rounds visiting the precincts to see how things were going and where they needed help. All Election Board Members were old hands at this. They knew exactly what needed to be done and were ready with any emergencies. What I found amazing, though, was a high degree of failure of the machines. At John Malcolm School, I had to release my spare power strip and my JBC in order to get them up and running. They also had one machine that was down. We were prepared to go all-paper until we were up and running. There was no way that folks were going to be turned away. When I got to John Malcolm around 6:40 AM that morning, people had already been lining up. I knew then that today was truly going to be different than other days.

As I was making the rounds, the battle of the signs was evident even on election day. One of the candidates for the Moulton Niguel Water District came up to the Inspector asking about the 100 Feet rule because he wanted to make sure his signs that he put up did not violate the rule. At John Malcolm, the Pro-Measure H signs were clearly visible. The Inspector at the Site, Gerald, had to hear concerns expressed to that effect from a disgruntled voter. Gerald noted that there was nothing he could do because as long as the 100 Feet rule was not violated, they were within their rights to put up the signs as they did. They were quite diligent in insuring that they abided by the 100 Feet rule.

Fire Station 49 Polling location in South County

People were coming in on a steady basis throughout the day. In talking with voters, some took as long as 45 minutes because of the deluge of voters at one of the polling booths. But, surprisingly, they were patient and understanding throughout the process. The equipment issues, though, continued to cause problems at two of my polling sites. Both had fifty percent of their machines down. I was in constant touch with the Registrar of Voters Help Desk to expedite a resolution. There were apparently equipment problems throughout the County. As I was talking to the help desk, I could sense a level of frustration. I did what I could to keep their spirits up although it was not easy. Finally, Derek Moore of the Registrar of Voters was able to get to Fire Station 49 and facilitate a resolution. As I talked with him, I felt sorry for him because he was running around all of South County on resolving issues throughout the day. I also found that all the Senior Staff of the Registrar, including Neal Kelly himself, were on the field addressing the issues. There were over 1200 polling sites up and running throughout the County. I worked with him to help get the network back up and running. He told me that he was going to base himself out of Fire Station 49 which freed me up to get back out to make the rounds of the rest of the sites.

As I continued on, I kept tabs on the so-called “pub count”. Pub count is the number of IDs being issued by the JBC machine. There were, of course, paper ballots and absentee being issued. We were beating records in number of votes being cast. One of the inspectors advised me that he was at 100 percent turnout for his precinct–which I found to be remarkable.

As the evening progressed, I continued my visits. Two of the precincts I visited had long lines. We were mandated to make sure that anyone who was in line by 8:00 PM to insure that they voted so that their vote counted. As soon as 8:00 PM rolled around, I checked in with all the precincts and made visits to the precincts that needed assistance with shutdown before finally getting clearance from my Lead Coordinator by confirming that all my precincts had shut down and were on their way to the drop off point.

Although it was a long, hectic day, what I was particularly proud of was how every member of the Election Board pitched in and worked as a team. There were some frustration at times. But, everyone kept their cool because they knew that this was about something bigger than them. They decided to serve and made a difference. I made it a point of shaking each and every one’s hand just to remind them how their service was appreciated. I was also amazed as to how the people kept their cool and showed such patience and resilience waiting in line. Some waited as long as 45 minutes. I walked up to a voter at one of the precincts asking whether she needed any help. She told me that as she was waiting for her husband, she had no problems and no issues. She also noted that there are many around the World who have to wait longer and many who don’t even have that right. They were willing to endure a little wait in order to have a say in the future of the Country.

As I monitored the results, I was shocked at the extent of the setbacks by the Democrats. I viewed that the Democrats would lose. I did not believe that the losses were going to be as wide and deep as it was. I could not believe, for instance, the lop-sided results for the John Campbell/Beth Krom Campaign. I was shocked to see some of the long-term players being taken down throughout the Country.

The Republicans and their Tea Party allies must be congratulated for what they achieved. This was quite an election for the history books. It will be studied for years. I will be quite keen to see the results of the upcoming Resurgent Republic/Democracy Corp Poll to assess what happened. Although I am not a fan of polls per se, I still view this one as one that should be looked at. As many of us contemplate what USA TODAY’s headline noted for President Obama–NOW WHAT?; The Republicans are not out of the wood at all either. There was a rather flattering profile of Speaker-Designate Boehner in USA Today. The Republicans, though, need to take this advise from Karl Rove to heart when he wrote in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that : “…..The public has spoken. Now it’s up to the Republicans to deliver…”. All the Palin die-hearts, the Constitutionalists, the Beck legions, the ditto-heads and all the other factions within the Republican Party must realize that they have to now begin to Govern. The question is whether they have the courage to actually Govern or will continue to stall for the ultimate prize in 2012: The White House.

California was one of the highlights for Democrats Tuesday night. I was quite gratified to see Jerry Brown telling it like it is. As I look ahead, I have to wonder whether the political earthquake that has just occurred will translated into meaningful action on main street. What is clear is that the Republicans will not stop now. They will continue to be on the prowl because they have the money, the power, the strength of controlling legislatures and can truly dominate the debate now. Those of us who are “Voices from Street Corners” will be watching with keen interest especially as the latest unemployment claims reflect some rough sailing ahead.

I wonder if such voices will truly be heard. Time will tell.