On March 15, North Carolina primary day, Camry, Chizoba, and I ventured out to a polling location in Kernersville, NC. As soon as we arrived, we noticed a woman camped out just outside the “buffer zone” of the Sedge Garden polling location handing out what she called “conservative voting information”. Determined to speak to each and every voter before they entered the polling location, she ran up to them with her usual spiel. She said, “Good afternoon. Would you like some conservative voter information?”, and would hand them a pamphlet on Ted Cruz and local Republican politicians. Watching voters’ reactions was honestly entertaining, but also very uncomfortable. Although she was a sweet, kind, elderly woman, she summoned people over by saying, “Oh! You look conservative!” This woman’s strategy influenced the way Camry, Chizoba, and I conducted our job. We were assigned by a non-partisan organization called Democracy NC to collect voter information through brief exit polls, as well as to assist voters who may have had difficulties inside the polling location due to the strict NC voter ID laws that recently went into effect. Most of the voters were willing to take our brief exit polls. However, I could sense that some people were afraid that we would try to speak to them about certain candidates or political issues due to the fact that the woman near us was camped out front with her conservative literature. I believe that her presence altered many voters psychologically, as she tried to coerce them on their way inside before they voted, whereas Democracy NC was simply there to gather information for a UNC-Charlotte research project.
One distinct memory I have from this poll monitoring experience was when an elderly man and woman were strolling into the polling location to vote and all of a sudden the lady with the conservative information summoned them over. The elderly couple refused to engage in any political talk because, as they put it, “We already know who we’re voting for”. The older gentleman came over to Camry, Chizoba, and I and said, “I’m actually a blue dog Democrat” and laughed at his own cleverness. He continued, saying that Republicans are the reason why we have the unnecessary, strict voter ID laws in the first place. Overall, this poll monitoring experience opened up my eyes to the complexity of the American constituency and of the American political system. In the 21st century, we shouldn’t have to worry about disenfranchisement. However, because of the corruption of particular politicians in the state of North Carolina, 11,000 provisional ballots were cast between the early voting period and March 15. We must bring back same day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and the ability for college students to use out-of-state drivers licenses to vote.
On another note, the evening of March 15 was a very sad night for me, as we found out that Marco Rubio dropped out of the race. Senator Rubio had my support from the beginning of this heated election. As I consider myself a moderate, and I believed that Rubio would have been a great leader in the sense of bipartisanship, I was excited for a young, Latin American president. I didn’t support Rubio because I am a conservative Republican, or because I agreed with all of his stances on issues (which definitely wasn’t the case), I truly believed in his positive outlook, his campaign message of “A New 21st Century”, and his ability to show the world the importance of diversity and inclusion, through the support of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. I believed in his vision for constructive, comprehensive immigration reform and his plans for improving the quality of life and economic opportunities for all Americans.
Better luck next election. I’ll miss you Senator Rubio.