This morning I got a crash course on voting in Virginia. It turns out that today is the last day people can "absentee vote in person," but many of them don't know where to go. Other people who plan to vote on Tuesday fear they are not registered to vote, or don't know if their polling place has changed, or they can't get out to vote unless they have a ride. Fortunately, I can now help with all of these issues, and in fact that is my job from today until the polls close at 7pm on Tuesday, one call at a time.
|Last polling place to close in MO, 2008|
Here in this room, answering people's queries on the phone feels significantly different from working with people face to face, but, whereas knocking doors is a numbers game (it takes a lot of knocked doors to register a few voters, or convince a few people to get off their butts and go vote), responding to hotline calls has the feeling of a much higher rate of return. That is, I really feel like I'm helping almost everyone who calls. Many people sound a little frantic or confused when I begin talking to them, but they're pretty cheerful by the time they hang up. And more importantly, I get the sense that the vast number of people who call could not or would not have voted before their call, but after calling they're equipped to vote. Hooray democracy!
|Only the best quality snacks to fuel the volunteers|
Okay, I'm geekin' out a little bit here. I know I am. But c'mon! Power to the people, people. It's a gorgeous idea. And I know it's not ideally realized anywhere, let alone in the U.S., but every Virginian who's helped by the hotline is a little more power to at least that person. And I think this is very cool.
I'll leave you with two of my favorite calls of the day so far.
One, from just a bit ago: "Hi, Sarah. How are you?" I ask if I can help, or answer a question. "Nope. I just wanted to see if anyone was answering this number." I assured him that the hotline was well staffed. "Okay, well that makes me feel better." Okay, then... That call just made me giggle.
Another call from earlier: an elderly woman phoned, wanting to double check her polling place. She wasn't able to give me her voter ID because, she explained to me, her hand tremors so badly that she couldn't read the number. So she called her husband over, but he had to fetch a magnifying glass to read the number. Meanwhile some third person was plunking out "unchained melody" on a piano in the background. This whole time she was being adorable and chatting me up. Eventually we retrieved the number and could verify her polling place, which she will get herself to on Tuesday. To cast her vote, as a citizen with a voice: power to the people!