by Ginger Philbrick
November elections—an exciting event in political life! Although I sometimes shudder when I hear the word “politics,“ I know it to be a science that is integral to the operation of our society. Therefore, I think it is worthy of exploring what is, in America, the heart of our politics—the citizen voter. Specific to my interest for this column is how the voter conducts himself or herself at the polls.
Ignoring the bad manners of too many candidates who are running to lead us, we the voters can enjoy a civility in our small, but immensely important, role in this election. I have had the privilege of volunteering at the polls for several years, observing a variety of approaches to the voting place and the procedure of voting. Let me share six simple suggestions regarding how the execution of this privilege can be most pleasant for everyone.
• Do all of your talking about specific candidates to the volunteers who sit out front of the polling place. Any questions you need answered or opinions you would like to share will be gladly received by those patient party people who sit for hours to do just that. The poll staffers inside are not allowed to engage in any political conversation.
• As you walk into the building remind yourself that the staff at the voter registration office, the respective county electoral board and the volunteers you will see inside are all your neighbors, often close friends. They have taken an oath to serve you by faithfully and impartially executing their duties according to the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. They want you to know your vote is precious and protected.
• If there is a line inside the polling place and you have to wait to be checked in, be patient. The volunteer who greets you at the door and asks for i.d. is just as eager for you to vote as you are.
• Once you have filled out your ballot and are on the way to the efficient machine that will swallow it whole and count your choices (known as the vote scanner), you may well run into a friend or acquaintance who you haven’t seen in a while. Polling places offer wonderful opportunities to see your neighbors, but they are very poor venues for conversation. So, the polite thing to do is suggest the two of you go outside, away from incoming and outgoing voters, to catch up. Oh, and don’t forget to get your “I Voted” sticker as you exit!
• If we have a complaint regarding any part of the voting experience, each precinct has a chief whose job it is to help keep the poll running in accordance with state requirements. They are there to serve us and untangle any snarls that may occur. They work much more efficiently and civilly in our behalf if we do not yell at them or berate the process. In my opinion they deserve gold pedestals.
• Our poll workers will have been on the job since 5 a.m. and when the polls close at 7 p.m., they sometimes have hours to go before they can return to their homes. It is a long day and your effort to arrive at your earliest convenience is truly appreciated.
As you make your marks and mind your manners, unsolicited thanks to your poll volunteers go a long way toward making them feel their efforts are worth the loss of sleep!
Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.