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My Day as a Roster Judge in Ohio

When I received my absentee ballot request, it contained an invitation to work the polls on Election Day. I did some volunteer stuff in ’04 and ’06 and while I wanted to do something again, I didn’t want to make phone calls or knock on doors this time. Both are invaluable experiences, by the way, if you’re looking for a thing to do to support the issues you believe in.

I accepted the invite and found myself in a 3-hour class about 2 weeks later, learning how to be a Roster Judge for a Franklin County (Ohio, home of Columbus) election. Roster Judges in Franklin County are the polling officials who sit at a desk with a copy of the poll register, and who look at various forms of identification while making sure the voting folks are in the right precinct.

After taking the class, I was overwhelmed. There are so many cross-checks and step by step procedures, NONE of which added up to anything coherent as far as I was concerned, that I was afraid I’d really stepped in it this time, and this coming from a woman who went to France by herself without speaking any French. Election ’08 in my neck of the woods was going to be chaos *because of me.* Our instructor was also the author of the poll worker text book printed by the Board of Elections, and he was a good teacher, a booming and proclaiming sort of man who seemed to be impervious to anything, like a high school science teacher who also coaches girls basketball.

Rosters, ATV slips, lost voter slips, print ballot permission slips, provisional ballet envelopes, stuff to be pitched, stuff to be stuffed in special stuff boxes and sealed with a seal, the “cake box,” the flags, the 100 foot string, the pencils, the Bingo markers, the pens — I had to go back and look at it again for the practice sessions the weekend before and it wasn’t just me, by gum. There were lots of us confused poll-workers-to-be and we needed some extra help.

Our day was long. Looooooong. Got to the polling place at 5:30 a.m. and all of the above was out on tables and there were poll workers putting up flags,  and there were roster judges, greeters, machine judge, polling machines, supply carts, “I voted today” stickers . . . and the Public lining up before 6:30 am when the polls opened, waiting to vote. The Best Precinct Judge EVER came over and patted me on the shoulder because I was sending off Nervous signals like crazy. She  said not to worry (I did anyway). She was right, plus I sat right next to an accomplished Roster Judge veteran.

6:30 a.m: the doors open! the people flood in! The machines go down! We divert voters to the paper ballot table. It takes longer and some of the public wasn’t very happy about it. Not the majority, by any means, but one or two. I thought about explaining that gosh, I’d only had 4 hours of training all told, but thought it would be the wrong time to share my career as a Roster Judge.

I think there were 2 tv crews, but I was so busy checking IDs, making marks, checking off boxes, getting signatures (there’s no way a Roster Judge could commit fraud, I give you my word; there’s no time and I’m not sure what the fraud procedure would be) that I only dimly remember seeing a man and a camera and then piff! he was gone.

And that was the only rush and it was over by about 10:00 a.m. That was the drama. No lunch-time rush, no after-work rush; a smallish rush as students and teachers were released from school at about 2:30-3:30. I started yawning at 5:30 p.m. and did not quit until I was at home and ready to go to bed. I wish I’d stayed up for another hour and a half to watch Obama’s speech, but i was nervous as well as tired and wanted to be in a quiet dark place.

We had an observer. I didn’t ask for whom she was observing because we weren’t supposed to talk politics in the polling place and I’m afraid I would have smiled or frowned or something.

The high school boys  who worked the event talked and talked and talked all day. I read a bit from The King’s Last Song.

At 7:15 p.m., a voter came in and at 7:25,p.m. another voter came in. They finished, the machines sorta turned themselves off (I think), we completed our evaluations, took down the flags (which is when I got worried; “what if Obama didn’t win?” I thought, and of course I couldn’t talk about it), ran the tape of the voting machine results (isn’t that cool? I didn’t know you could do that!), unplugged and unhooked the machines (I held the very machine computer chips in my hands, like they were the Host, and bore them gently to their special envelope), and called it a day plus as well all went home.

So that’s how a gang of folks spent their day; hanging out in the social hall of a local church, sharing fruit, chili, potato chips, chicken casserole, and lots and lots of coffee.

Best moments:

A woman who was kicking herself for not voting early and getting the task out of the way. She said her friend called her *three times* and told her to go and vote.

A grandmother who pestered her grand-daughter to vote and drove her to the polls.

A guy who came back when he didn’t have any id the first time.

I asked one man to please remove his campaign button from his shirt, and he did and was very nice about it.

Several folks who said they came back after seeing the early morning rush.

Shook hands with a neighbor and voter from whom I am ideologically worlds apart. One of his men won; the other did not.

Best part: just doing it.



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I am (a) Leslie Birdwell

That’s the name I was born with and the name under which I have written some stuff. I know that there is more than one Leslie Birdwell (both women?) and I think at least two of us are writers/appreciators of literature. Isn’t that cool? Like . . . something in the name compels a person to enjoy books. I’m the Leslie Birdwell who was born in Chicago, grew up in Michigan, grew up again in West Virginia, and now lives in Central Ohio. I’m the one lucky enough to be married to Jack, the one who is the proud editor of the Ohioana Quarterly, the one who lost at Jeopardy!, the one who is lucky in friends, has two cats, and who likes dark chocolate oranges (you know, the ones you can thwap on hard surface and that fall into chocolate sections of orangey goodness).

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A Plug for Columbus

Or, Jobs That Don’t Suck in Columbus. Seriously. I’m not in the market for an entry-level job these days, but I think there are plenty of keen jobs in this town as opposed to other jobs in other towns south of the Ohio River.  Not naming names here, but were I a young person doing the Appalachian Two-Step wherein one takes two or three steps out of one’s Appalachian town in search of a job, I would consider coming to Columbus.One of the swell, swell companies that has several stores in town is Half Price Books.  I worked for them for one day and they were great! (It was one day because a freelance job turned up on my first day of work to which I  really had to say “yes”– especially since Gabby was sick at the time).  I like Half Price Books  because they give benefits to their employees; insurance, profit sharing, 401K, discounts — plus they are very very nice! I had the best bosses for my 8 hour stint!!! I also like the Northstar Cafe because it’s great food AND because the employees are not expected to reach minimum wage with tips. Customers can tip if they want but really, it’s not necessary.  How often does that happen in the restaurant biz?There’s also a great art school here in town, The Columbus College of Art and Design which turns out artists like nobody’s business.  I want to take a class there some day when I’m not dealing with horses, working, trying to write fiction, knitting, or taking naps. I’m sure an enterprising young person who was interested in art could take classes there and also work at a job that doesn’t suck.

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Maximum Ride By James Patterson

Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports  is the third book by James Patterson about the flock, a band of six winged children (and their talking dog Total) and their struggles to survive the menacing forces that created them — and that want to destroy them.

I admit, I’m a sucker for mouthy girl main character and that description fits Max (short for Maximum Ride) the same way her amazing wings fit her, wings that carry her effortlessly over the ground and just as neatly fold up against her back.  Max is the leader of the troop and with her co-captain, Fang, are the Peter Pan and Wendy of the four younger ones in their care.  Since I haven’t read the first book, I can’t explain about the dog other than he’s kind of persnickety and has no interest in eating from a dish on the floor.

Max gets off some good ones that had me giggling more than once, and her intense love of her fellow bird-kids is very real despite the way she throws off smart-alecky one-liners.  That her way of whistling in the dark and there’s plenty of dark in this book.

The unreal video-game violence might prove to be exciting for some readers.  As I read Max’s description of her round-house kicks and about the impossible odds, I couldn’t help but think of old cowboys v. Indians movies.  You know, the kind where the cowboy shoots once and four Indians hit the dirt?  It’s like that, except high tech and more likely in Technicolor rather than black and white. The problem, as far as I’m concerned, is that character development becomes secondary or even tertiary to the gore. Yes, I know it’s fantasy  and I don’t have any problem with flying kids.  I appreciate the physiological explantions (bird-kid bone density) and the way Max describes the oddness of a trip on an airplane and the reality that although they are strong and fleet, they are not built for transatlantic crossings. I appreciate passages that remind the reader that these are beings, humans just like the people turning the page of a book.

Patterson pays homage to the Wizard of Oz  during the infiltration of a big castle run by a witch and inhabited by legions of mutants who all but chant “O-lio, o-LEE-o” as they march in lockstep.  It’s probably not a coincidence that the scary uniformity takes places in Germany and that the evil powers-that-be have cleansing-by-extermination in mind,  any more than the Imperial soldiers in Star Wars had helmets that bore a strong resemblance to the uniforms of WW II German troops.  But Mr. Patterson, why put “Publicists” on Fang’s Web blog entry where he lists useless people? And the two foaming-at-the-mouth villains (one with a crappy German accent) seem mostly silly.

Good fantasy pulls the reader into the alternate world or the wrinkle added to our own.  That’s what any good story does, horse-opera (an old name for westerns) or space-opera (an old name for SciFi). This book has some of those moments.  And some readers might appreciate the call-to-action and the opportunity to log onto the book’s Web site and feel as if they part of the story. The best way to become a part of the story, however, is to care about what happens to the characters.  You don’t become part of the story so much as the story becomes part of you.  Max, in her much-appreciated teen snarkiness, cetainly struck that note with me.


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Spam spam spam

Is it Defrost who had the post about the search terms people have used to find her blog?  And the search terms are sorta icky? My “Shank’s Pony” entry picks up porn spam every so often, and WordPress (bless it!) has to ask me about it.  Other spam doesn’t get to the “Approve?  No?” point very often. But it’s usually good old “Shank’s Pony”, out of which I get a big kick because it’s this language thing and even though it doesn’t matter to the spammers, just the idea that their piece of stuff  hit the ground and went no place nowhere no how pleases me.

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No Title

I can’t find the clicker, the cats are overweight, and it costs a lot of money to lease a horse and to take lessons.  Sometimes I feel so guilty about the $ that I nearly can’t hardly stand it and I have conversations with myself about giving it up because of the cost.  We could have, like, a savings account if it weren’t for my horse pleasures.  My husband never says this and I’m not sure he even thinks this — but if I weren’t spending $ on horses, then we could afford business class tickets to Europe or wild-caught salmon 3 nights a week or maybe even give money in support of world peace.  Yes, I could give it up because of the cost — and then go right back into a funk.


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