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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions Of A Voter Registrar.

A long time ago, in a county far, far away I was a deputy voter registrar. It's the sort of job for which there is not a whole lot of competition. You miss time with the family using otherwise leisure time to sit out in the sun at a card table trying to talk indifferent citizens into signing up to vote, an act that had the added bonus of getting added to the pool for jury duty (Washington law in the '80s). A good friend of mine, attorney Dick Perry, and I would spend a Saturday or two every year before election time on the Colville Reservation doing political work. Dick would take a truck load of political signs around the Res and post them on trees and fence posts and I would set up outside the Keller or Nespelum store snagging tribal members and enrolling them. I am a Democrat, and was pretty sure most of the people I was signing up were going to vote Democratic. No harm, no foul. The party recruited tribal members to run for office and even elected more than a few. 

The Colville Reservation is larger than most counties, and originally much larger. Unfortunately the northern part of the Res had gold, and that was confiscated. The Res is dry, dusty scrub or ponderosa pine forested uplands. One of the three paved roads on the Res washed out in 1987, and hasn't been rebuilt. When the Federal government needs to cut expenses (always) the country's indian reservations are a "no constituency that matters" choice. The only way to get the tribes their due is to make them a voting bloc, and registration was the only way to do that. 

From Keller it was a sixty five mile round trip to the court house to register, and bringing the service there seems obvious to me. Washington State law dictates what a registrar must do with all registration forms. Even if you know the registration to be bogus it must be turned in to be sorted by the county office. Even if you have used a form scribbled on to get a ball point pen to write it must be turned in. No exceptions. Partizan registrars, like me, of course focused on people who would vote our way. I never asked anyone if they were a D or R, but I could guess.

I can still taste that red dust from the Res, but we swept the county for the Democrats and of that I am proud.

1 comment:

Mona Albano said...

Good for you. It's nice to see people using their energy to improve the world.

In Canada, they have switched from the government having people go door-to-door before elections to having people added from Census or tax records. The goal is to have everyone registered to vote and no one registers with one party or another unless they separately join that party.