I ❤ voting. I have voted at least once a year – since birth. For nearly 20 of those years, I voted in the same church social hall. As a social hall, the cracked linoleum and aged paint made it pitiful. But throw in some polling booths, the smell of coffee from the election-day bake sale, and friendly neighbors as poll workers, and it was a dandy polling station. I looked forward to going there for every election.
Then I moved.
Along with my residency, my voter registration changed. But amid all the changes, some things stayed the same. My new polling station was in yet another church. Walking into a church-located polling station, I expected the usual from my polling station workers – the friendly smiles, the joyful greetings. On my first New York-resident election day, I burst into the room full of smiles for the poll workers.
There was a bag of candy sitting on the table nearest the door. I beamed at it, and the poll workers at its table, as I made a beeline for the candy. I announced my name, and address, and was leaning toward the candy when one of the poll workers stopped me short. She told me I was at the wrong table. I lived the next district over; they pointed me toward the correct table. A table without candy. As I walked away, they didn’t offer me a parting sweet. And I knew I wasn’t in Pennsylvania anymore.
I tried to greet my actual poll workers with pep; it was not returned.
That first election was heart-breaking to me. But being a voter, I kept going back. Over the course of six elections, I kept up the enthusiastic greetings to the best of my abilities. Slowly, but surely, I worked my way into their hearts. This year, I greeted my poll workers like long-lost friends and they greeted me like a rock star. Our meeting was so cheering that it took me a moment to realize they still didn’t know my name. But the break-through gave me hope; I patiently spelled out my name and address so that they could look me up. We chatted as they got out my ballot. Once it was at hand, the man laid it in front of me and began, “You can only vote for one person in -”
His colleague broke in. “-she knows how to vote.” With a smile, she handed me my ballot, and waved me toward the voting booths.
Finally, I’d made it. My poll workers knew me.
It took two days for me to realize.
I had voted in the wrong district.
In New York, when you move three blocks you move out of one district and into the other. And I had moved. So now, it’s time to reregister.
But that’s ok. Because now I know I have what it takes to win over new poll workers. Though this time I might start by bringing them candy.