Thursday, 22 October 2015

Poll duty had its moments

So what did you do on the Thanksgiving weekend? Turkey dinner? Visited family? Family drop in? Me? I worked all weekend supervising an Advance Poll location so people could vote. My feet and back hurt. I’m dead tired, even after a good night’s sleep. But I have a deep satisfaction at being able to help my neighbours do something that is a right for all citizens over 18 in Canada. I wasn’t alone. A lot of citizens helped you vote, right across Canada.

It was clear well before the Advance Polls opened that you wanted to vote. You lined up an hour before opening at noon on Friday and you just kept coming for four days.

You broke voting records. You confounded the experts. Elections Canada didn’t think that so many would be voting and planned accordingly. They underestimated you.

While you were standing in line, we were doing our best to make the voting process as easy for you as possible. At my location we developed a new methods of getting the information we needed as quickly as possible so you could vote. What we did wasn’t in the training manual and we did get our ideas approved by our supervisor. They worked.

We understood your frustration. We didn’t like it either. But we had to do things according to the Elections Act and if that took a minute or two longer, we are sorry but we had no choice. We understood your tearing up your voter card and throwing it in our face. We picked up the pieces. We know why you dropped the F-bombs. And we also appreciated your coming back and apologizing to us and acknowledging that your behaviour wasn’t helpful. How truly Canadian of you. But what meant the most was that you voted, no matter what. Thank you.

If there were moments that really gave us a lot of pleasure, it was when we were able to make things work for you. I won’t forget the look of shear joy on the face of a first time voter who came up to the Registration Officer and said, “All I have is my health card and a pay stub. Can I vote?” “Of course!” we answered.

Then there was an elector who had specifically taken a taxi to the polling place but had no id with their place of residence on it. We watched as they went through their bag, checking every nook and cranny for something acceptable. Then an unnoticed pocket was opened and inside there was a handicapped parking permit. It had an address on it. Gold. And that elector was delighted.

Elections Canada is very much a hands-on agency. As the polls opened, a senior official arrived for a spot check. She saw the lineup and how we were overwhelmed. Her first words were “How can I help?” I put her to work at as a poll clerk for three hours until a replacement arrived.

Thanks to all my fellow election workers in the Advance Poll. You did a great job. As for the rest of you, if you haven’t voted yet, do it now. It’s your right as a Canadian citizen.

Rev. David Shearman is a retired United Church minister in Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County.