Today, when I voted in Tennessee, I laughed as I remembered voting for George W. Bush in 2004.
I had taken my two kids to the lobby of the Benjamin Franklin House in Philadelphia. We had lived on the 17th floor of the building since moving there a year or so before, and I remember appreciating the convenience of just taking the elevator down and casting my vote.
How wrong I was.
I approached the table, which had the people sitting with giant books of names. One of them asked me for my name and my phone number. It seemed a little off. I’d never voted in Pennsylvania before, but I wasn’t ready to hand over my phone number to some random poll monitor.
“Why do you need my phone number?” I asked.
The guy looked at his list skeptically, as if he was not going to let me vote.
“Well, I’m checking off who voted and I need to know whether I should call you later to make sure you made it to the polls.”
Alarm bells started going off in my head. Why would he need my number to not call me. And why would an election official be calling voters anyway?
“So, I’m voting right now,” I said, incredulously. “I’m here. You don’t need my number, not to call me, to make sure I did what I’m trying to do right now.”
Okay, so I was upset and wasn’t able to be clear in my protest.
“Listen,” he said. “I just want to make sure our people get out to vote.”
He could tell by my Tennessee accent that I was probably not “his people.” Someone in the line behind me yelled out, “Why don’t you go back south and vote? I’m on my lunch break!”
“What do you mean, ‘your people?’” I asked.
Philadelphia is notorious for voter intimidation, voter fraud, and other crazy voting mishaps. For example, in 2008, a University of Pennsylvania student filmed two black panthers standing outside a polling place carrying clubs, intimidating Republican poll watchers from entering their polling place. (FoxNews later went to check out the scene.) On that day in 2006, news reports had emerged that some voting machines already had thousands of votes registered on them, even though the polls hadn’t opened yet.
I was completely undone, and the people in the line were sick of me holding up the process. “Who are you?” I demanded.
“Well,” he eventually admitted, “I’m with MoveOne.org. And I just want to make sure the ballots are cast for the right person.”
In his opinion, the right person was John Kerry.
“Why are you here? Why are you behind this table? This table is for poll watchers. You aren’t supposed to be collecting data for MoveOn.org!” I couldn’t help it, but my voice rose to a near yell. “You’re posing as a poll watcher!” I said.
By this time, everyone was pretty much over me. I got out my cell phone and called the police. The MoveOn guy, well, moved on. Of course, the election officials were aware that the activist was harassing voters beyond the barrier and collecting their information right there on the spot.
When the officers came, they took my report but looked as if they’d rather be doing anything else. Reluctantly, they filled out a form, I cast my vote, and I went up to my apartment and hid for the rest of the day.
When David came home from work, he walked through the lobby and decided to vote before he went up for dinner.
“David French,” he told them as they looked at their sheets and found his name and address.
“Oh, yes,” the election official said, “We met your lovely wife.”