Last week, I got the opportunity to serve as a poll monitor during the North Carolina primary. The work was interesting, it basically featured me and two other students flagging down strangers to fill out a survey whilst doing homework and hearing opinions of the ballots and candidates. Except for one couple who made sure we knew they were “blue dog Democrats”, pretty much everyone else who visited that particular polling place was Republican.
The poll monitor job was interesting because it challenged me to keep my opinions to myself and learn more about other people’s views and not be able to respond. As a poll monitor for Democracy Now, displaying partisanship is not allowed nor encouraged. The organization is non-partisan, and as poll monitors our job was to get research surveys filled out on behalf of a local college and Democracy Now. With this context in mind, partisan-based comments and/or actions would be inappropriate, yet I do wonder how differently my day would have gone if I had made partisan comments. Certainly, I heard comments from the many Republican supporters who were there to vote that day, and the requirement to hold my tongue allowed me to hear them in a way I had never done before. For the first time I listened to their comments and had no solace in knowing I could later respond. As challenging as this was, I enjoyed hearing the wide variety of comments coming from the constituents there that day. Most of them commented on the ballot, some brought up the candidates, but most commented on the non-partisan survey we administered, and their reactions were the most salient memory I have of the day.
Whilst working the polls that day, monitoring civic duty really, Camry, Daniella and I were giving out surveys on behalf of a research group looking to gather more demographic information about voters as well as the impact of the new voter ID law and how well or how poorly it may have worked in practice. Their survey dedicated roughly half of the questions to demographics, and the other half gauged the voter ID law. There were questions about whether or not voters were even asked for ID, whether they offered ID, how necessary they thought the new restrictions were, and questions like that. Most people did not have issues with the ID laws, which was good to hear, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether other polling places that had less white middle-aged people had had the same results. I doubted it, but I was glad it was not overwhelmingly faulty and incapacitating at my location.
The most interesting comments I heard in response to the exit survey were all in response to a questions asking persons to fill out their gender. The options were male, female or other with a blank. Many people were thoroughly confused by this question, especially with the blank. People said you could only be one, male or female, for gender. They insisted that the blank was unnecessary and taunting. Some even suggested we go find Caitlyn Jenner since “she doesn’t know if she’s a man and he doesn’t know if she’s woman”. There were numerous problems with this blank, and I think it really gave me some insight to the level of discomfort or dislike there may be in the Republican Party concerning the complexity of gender. It was truly an insightful day! I’m glad I wasn’t able to talk through or challenge anyone’s views, because I don’t think I would have heard as many opinions as I did. Being able to peer into the minds of passing Republican voters isn’t an option I have every day, yet it was an entertaining one.