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In Response to RE: Memoir Prompt November 2012: The act of voting by rmcginnis
Thanks Mac. Regardless of how I got the position, in and of itself it is very non-political. They just require a balance of workers from both major parties to help assure fairness and honesty. Despite a very long and tiring day, I looked forward each year to my time at the polls. I don't know if the system is changed today, but this is how it was back in the late 60s and early 70s.
I had to go to a class at the Board of Elections in order to be appointed as an Inspector or Election. And it's not a 9-5 job LOL. I had to arrive before the polls opened and stay until the votes were counted and entered - back then we didn't have computers helping (or hindering). We are talking 5 AM to 10 PM and later - 17 plus hours. Volunteers were a big help, bringing us meals from local vendors although some of us still brown-bagged it. They also kept the coffee flowing. It was an exhausting day - a combination of frantically busy at peak times and totally boring at others.
The hardest part for me? There was no such thing as a smoke-free polling place so that didn't help my allergy to tobacco. I usually spent a couple of days suffering with watery eyes, runny nose and headaches - not to mention asthma . The price we pay. Of course it is a paid position but I don't remember how much. I do recall it wasn't what I earned in two 7 hour days at work, but my employer (possibly because of his political position) also paid me for the time off since we weren't closed on Election Day.
The entire experience of working as one of the lead volunteers, hosting meet the candidate coffee parties, going to Albany and so on was just a great period of my life. I partied with some celebrities who backed Ben Gilman when he ran for Congress, including Richard Kiley the actor, Walt Frazier and Julius Irving (Dr. J) the basketball stars, Gretchen Wiley and others. I got to meet a number of politicians of the day.
I didn't go on to work for Ben Gilman as other than a volunteer during his early Congressional years - I had the option but my children were into their teens and I really had to make a choice between career and politics. I've had twinges of regret but overall I know I made the right decision. He did arrange for a couple of buses to take a large group of supporters to D.C. the day he was inaugurated - we got to see his office and saw a lot of famous Senators and congressmen. We had to take turns sitting in the gallery, so I didn't actually see him sworn in, but it was still fun. Then we did a little sightseeing before going home.
However I had a lot of fun at the Capitol in Albany. During the session we two nights a week at a nearby hotel and feasted at an assortment of dinners given. I was there for the historic vote that legalized abortion for the first time. We counted pro and con mail, telegrams, phone calls and the constituents overwhelmingly wanted him to vote to approve it - everyone was fed up with illegal abortion, which wasn't going to go away and was killing young women as well as babies. Ben was not a proponent of abortion but he voted the wishes of his people and I always admired that. The vote came down to an even split until one Assemblyman voted yes and it passed - an amazing and exciting time to be able to sit in the gallery.
They are days and years I cherish and how I wish I had kept a journal because a lot of memories are lost I'm sad to say.