Thursday, November 09, 2006

Judge of Election makes Chicago safe for democracy, pt. 1

In honor of our recent election, I will share with my readers one of my many semi-amusing anecdotes from my experiences as a Democratic Judge of Election in Chicago.

Yes, I worked the polls in Chicago, and no, I never let any dead people vote. Not unless you count those DePaul University students…

And before you go getting all impressed with my civic-mindedness, let me tell you that 1) the gig paid $80, which was nothing to sneeze at for me back then, and 2) by being a judge of election, I could legitimately refuse to spend election day standing outside a polling place with some dumb sign or some dumb flyers while the voters avoided making eye contact with me. Except for the ones that would spit on me, that is.

One thing I learned from being a judge of election is to make friends with your cop. See, in Chicago, there is a cop assigned to every polling place. Sometimes, they are actually there, too. And the cop usually has better stories to tell than the half-demented/90% deaf senior citizen sitting next to you. One cop I spent election day with normally worked a beat in Cabrini-Green, and had been shot 4 times and stabbed twice. Wow, that’s a bad beat. His supervisor must’ve hated his shit.

Anyway, one mayoral election day, I notice that this guy had finished voting, but instead of handing us our ballot and leaving, he was looking over the stall at the ballot of the woman standing next to him. Just as I was about to say something, the guy spoke to the woman in a really loud voice…

Guy: (to woman) What are you doing?
Me: Sir.
Guy: (to woman) You’re not seriously voting for that guy!

The woman he is speaking to looks at him, annoyed. Everyone in the tiny polling place turns to look as well.

Me: Sir. Excuse me sir.
Guy (to me) What?
Me: You can’t do that, sir.
Guy: What?
Me: You can’t try to tell her how to vote.
Guy: It’s okay, she’s my wife.

I looked at him for a moment. He wasn’t joking. He was serious.

Me: Well, regardless. Unless, she’s asked you to assist her – ma’m, have you asked him to assist you?
Woman: (crosses her arms) No!
Me: Okay, then. Sir, you are not allowed to see who she is voting for, or to make comments about her choices.
Guy: Why don’t you mind your own business?
Me: Well, sir, this is my business. I’m a judge of election.
Guy: It’s my wife, okay? So why don’t you settle down?
Me: Sir, if you’re finished voting, I’m suggesting that you give us your ballot and leave. You can wait for your wife outside.

At this point I look up at the cop standing a few feet to my right. The cop, bored out of his skull and probably up for anything, takes a step forward and actually puts his hand on the handle of his nightstick. Like he’s ready to go on my word. Christ, I’ll love that cop until my dying day for doing that.

The guy’s gaze goes from me to the cop, and then after a few seconds he stomps over to the ballot box and makes a big show of watching one of our semi-capable seniors put his ballot in the slot and give him his receipt. Then he stomps out of the polling place, giving me the evil eye the whole time.

As soon as he’s gone the cop shakes his head and goes back to leaning against the wall. The guy’s wife goes back to punching her ballot, and takes her sweet time, too.

Well, that’s the end of that story. Maybe next time I’m tell you about when I worked the polling place in the firehouse.


vikkitikkitavi said...

Hm. Maybe this is the first AND the last of the series, since this one appears to have gone over like the fabled lead balloon.

dad said...

No, no, please more.

Grant Miller said...

Awesome story.

I've found cops - and I know/known many - usually have the best stories and the darkest/sharpest senses of humor.

But some are just jags.

Phil said...

You election judges, always getting the cops to do your dirty work.