by Ellen K. Halter, PEG Contributor
As a white, progressive woman, I want to share with you the most memorable volunteer experience I’ve had.
In October 2008, my husband and I became Democratic Challengers in the forthcoming November election, Barack Obama’s first. Many details of that experience are lost to me now, though I do remember going to the elegant University of Michigan law library where volunteer lawyers provided training. We were given thick manuals, which we brought home and studied.
I won’t lie to you. We spent many boring hours while we and the Republican challenger floated around our assigned Romulus poll. As the district was 98% Democratic and African American, her job was to challenge the registrations of as many Democratic voters as possible; our job was to defend their right to vote. In point of fact, she challenged only a few, and generally, those few were given provisional ballots. (That meant in the event of an extremely close election, the legitimacy of those votes would be examined in detail, and if cleared, would be counted.)
It’s the inspiring part I want to share with you. Before 7 am on a cold and rainy election day, we drove up to the school hosting our poll district and were greeted by a line of African American voters snaking out the door and around the playground. These twelve years later, this memory brings tears to my eyes. All that boring day, when we and the poll workers went about our business, I grew teary-eyed whenever thinking that Obama was likely to win and how joyous these voters would be.
If you’re the type of person who cares about our democracy, I encourage you to become a challenger and help ensure the fairness of our elections. Above all, if you’re the type of person who likes viewing the flowers in other people’s gardens, I encourage you to become a challenger and obtain that unique perspective.
Stay Tuned: More to Come