If you want your faith in humanity restored, sign up to work in the election – New Hampshire Bulletin

From the early 1960s both of my parents were active in New Hampshire politics. When I was a kid growing up in Manchester they always ‘worked the elections’ although I never really knew what that meant. As a clueless fourth grader, they let me fill envelopes for Barry Goldwater when he was running for president in 1964. When my father died in 2006, he had a stack of Goldwater for President pencils in his desk, still unsharpened. Obviously, I was raised by die-hard Republicans who put their money, time, and energy where their mouths were.

I’m no longer a fourth grader, I’ve been a Democrat for 50 years. Although I rarely agreed with my parents on political issues, I continued to admire them for their commitment to what they believed to be important and their willingness to stand up for it.

My parents took turns representing Manchester’s Ward 4 as Republicans in the state legislature, with my mother’s tenure coinciding with that of brash, vocal, and hyper-liberal New Hampshire legend Arnie Arnesen.

To say they were on opposite sides of the aisle wouldn’t do justice to their differences. In 2000, Arnie began dating and subsequently married a popular extended member of our family, Marty Capodice, a New Hampshire legend. When it became clear that Arnie would become a part of our family, many people expected fireworks, or at least a tense silence at family gatherings.

I remember my mother taking an obvious pause when she heard Arnie was coming to join us and then said, ‘Arnie and I want the same things; we just approach it in very different ways.” These differences never caused a tense moment at our family gatherings. I like to think it was because they now knew each other as people, not adversaries.

That’s what I’ve observed as people come to terms with their political differences. I realize how naive that sounds in today’s political environment. But I appreciate knowing – as an absolute fact – that it is possible, despite the lack of evidence that currently surrounds us.

Fast forward to 2022 as I read that Georgia poll workers are being hounded, harassed, and eventually driven out of their own neighborhoods. only for work on the elections – a totally impartial and most likely volunteer job. I was appalled and afraid that people across the country would no longer feel safe working on the elections.

I also wondered why I had never volunteered. Although I still don’t have an answer to that, I applied straight away and got the job of deputy registrar at Manchester’s Ward 3.

My job was to register people to vote. After completing thorough training, both online and in person, my first assignment was in September Elementary School, where we registered over 100 people to vote and I had the opportunity to learn the process in real time. I was very aware of how important it was for me to get this right and do well with every potential voter. As I was preparing to take on the same job in the November 8 general election, I had been warned that the volume would be much higher and that there could be disruption to the election. Although we had observers and challengers, for the most part they followed the rules set for those roles and it was mostly just busy. All. Day. Long.

To see so many people lining up to vote was so encouraging to be a witness. I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who takes the time to queue to vote has at least some confidence that their vote will be counted and treated fairly. And it was our job to make sure that was true.

As an introvert who is perfectly happy to be an introvert, I rarely put myself in these large group situations voluntarily. But after working in elementary school, I realized that each person who sat down at my station brought a completely unique situation, and we solved problems together, one on one.

I was helping a naturalized citizen from Argentina who was voting here for the first time. I’ve helped quite a few people who had their first names changed and not a few who had their last names changed. Although there were four deputy registrars, it was just fortunate that a cheerful elderly deaf man came to my station; it gave me the opportunity to practice my sign language and help him with it.

The assistant registrar who worked next to me was helping a recently naturalized citizen from Ukraine who didn’t speak much English. She was able to use her high school Russian language skills to help him register; he was so glad that someone understood him well enough to help him. Big smiles all around. Some people didn’t know which parish to vote in. Some came from another community, another city, another state. Some were born in US territories and brought mountains of documents with them, expecting them to have a hard time (spoiler alert: none were given). And my favorites were the 18-year-olds who signed up for the first time – some with a proud mum or dad behind them.

I wish we had a bell to ring every time we register a young person for the first time. It’s so stimulating to know that even though these young people are going through a confusing and uncomfortable time in their lives (which probably focuses on several dozen more pressing issues than politics), these young people know enough and care enough to vote to want. Overall, on November 8th, we registered nearly 500 new voters in our small community. After 15 hours of election work I was certainly tired, but most of all I was elated and hopeful for the future.

To anyone who is desperate about the state of the world right now, I encourage you to work on the elections even just once. It’s amazing to see how many people devote themselves to each step of the voting process: how well our City Hall staff prepare the workers for this job and stay there until the job is done, no matter how difficult or how late it gets; how carefully poll workers follow the rules closely, checking on each other and documenting everything they do.

And then there’s her kindness. The few times I had a chance to look around the station, poll workers happily greeted voters, answered questions, assisted those with mobility issues, and made it as easy as possible for voters to do their civic duty.

I know this doesn’t fix the world, but it certainly lifted me out of my own political skepticism and restored my confidence in our individual abilities to rise above the chaos that may surround us at this time.

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