Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

June 9, 2016

The Perfectionists

Several months ago my wife volunteered both of us to participate in California’s “Adopt a Poll” program. We would be working as polling clerks, along with three other VATAN members on Primary Tuesday. She did not talk about it, I forgot about it, and now I need to write about it. 

When the day came, it became an issue, but I could not refuse to do it. However, I made it clear that from now on I wanted to be consulted first before she volunteers me for anything. The only thing is, I am sure my wife will come up with other ingenious ways to volunteer us. But back to my story and the reasons I decided not to back out.

The reasons, you ask? Two very important ones. I realized there was no backing off from this; it would make me look like a jerk backing out of such an important day, both to ensure the voters in this particular precinct had the volunteers to process their votes, as well as the contribution to our charity in Turkey. Because we are a non-profit organization, we will receive a check that will go directly to the “Cagdas Yasmak,” a charity in Turkey which ensures that underprivileged girls receive an education.

A week before the primaries, my wife and I attended our training session in Westlake Village. Towards the end, I asked the instructor, “Is it too late to get out of this?” She asked why? But before I could answer, my wife rushed in and told the instructor that I was just joking. Joking? Perhaps, but maybe just a little concerned as to how this would all go. In addition to our official training, wife, in her perfectionism, decided that we should go over our instruction book one more time to make sure we understood our duties.

June 7 arrived, the day California primaries were held. We stopped by McDonald’s and picked up coffee for all of us and arrived at our polling precinct at Banyan Elementary School at 6 am. Haluk and Vega were already there brining in all the equipment. Emine was displaying all the signs and setting up the American flag. (Vega, my wife, Nancy, and Emine are board members of VATAN, and Haluk and I are the dutiful spouses).

Our team was comprised of our inspector -Vega (Dr. Vega who holds a Phd in Petroleum Engineering and we are so proud of everything she has accomplished in her lifetime), four polling clerks - myself, my wife (secretary of VATAN), Emine (also on the board) and Haluk. We comprised the proud polling team for 1644 registered voters of a section of Newbury park. 

Haluk and I were immediately given the job of moving the heavy equipment here and there and  Vega made sure the machines were in there correct places, wanting everything accurate within a tenth of an inch. Haluk and I then began the job of assembling the polling machines. Try as we might, we could not get one of the machines to work. Vega called headquarters to get help. Ha! All we had to do was turn off the machine and then turn it back on.

The funny thing about one of  the machines was that any time a voter fed his voting ballot into it, it gave a qaunk sound, like an anaconda swallowing its victim. I know. I know. An anaconda does not swallow in one go. Perhaps more like the dog I had as a young boy, a German Shepard by the name of Dutch. I would steal pieces of chicken and throw to Dutch, who would not chew it, but take it in one sharp movement and swallow it whole.

In the beginning, I have to admit, we were totally lost as to what to do with all the forms and paperwork. My wife, being a morning person, took over the chaotic situation of setting up the table and turned around. I am so proud of her and her accomplishments at Delta Air Lines, where she worked for over 28 years. Several times she was offered higher positions, but preferred to continue her work as a Senior Revenue Management Analyst. She is a natural organizer and thanks to her abilities, she soon had the table all set up and Vega and Emine joined her.

Vega declared the polls open at 7am. And, amazingly in that first hour, we started to function as a  professional team. Haluk and I become the background workers to these three perfectionist ladies. As I rotated in to give my wife a break to rest, Emine made me go over the books many times to make sure we did not forgot to put matching numbers on the tally sheets for each of the voters. When she found eleven that we’d missed, we double checked and then made sure they were given numbers.

Emine would read from the instruction booklet and tell us the right way to separate the provisional voters, and other exceptions that we were presented with. We found out that many people who were  registered to VBM (vote by mail) would come to polling station to vote. We had to follow our instructions, cross them off the master list, issue them a provisional ballot (to ensure that they did not vote twice) to fill out and then give them their actual ballot to vote. 

Many times voters would vote for more than one senator and our voting anaconda would make sounds like quank-zip as it refused to accept the ballot. More spoiled votes and revoting. Inspector Vega gave me the job of reminding every voter to vote for only one. Sometimes even an educated voter would be totally surprised that the other idiots had voted for two state senators on the ballot. 

We were determined to do everything according to the rules. We were not permitted to mention Dem or Rep or any other party names - rather we issued the ballots according to colors, red, blue, etc. We were totally impartial to our voters and received many complements. Voters thanked us for volunteering.

Except my wife, the remaining four of us had some kind of accent. I noticed that voters were a little puzzled because our accents were not any they could easily identify. I am sure they were trying figure out who these foreigners were, but actually, we are all Americans, but what ancestry?

Our inspector Vega supervised our polling duties as if it were a Chevron offshore drilling practice. Our most important job was that no voter was turned away and every vote was processed correctly. We all started to fade mid-afternoon and began watching the clock. To keep us going Vega had brought energy bars, bananas, other gourmet foods, some delicious bread, crackers and cheeses, as well as her coffee machine.

Emine brought her mother’s homemade borek, which I have to admit is about the best I have ever tasted. On top of all that, our previous VATAN president, Beril, brought tea, coffee and more food and took pictures of all of us.

As I said, with these three perfectionist ladies and Haluk and I as the loyal, hard-working behind the scenes men, we progressed through the day. Haluk also kept re-reading the ballot instructions and occasionally he would up bring a point and show us the correct way to process different voters. He also was constantly looking after the equipment and helped administer the paperwork to the provisional voters.

At 6pm, our roving inspector came by to check how we were doing and I think was quite impressed with our precinct. She began telling stories of things going wrong in other poling places and it was then I knew were were doing okay.

She officially closed the poll at 8pm and shut the door. We all were so tired after 14 hours but still had much to do to close up the machines and paperwork properly. Thankfully she stayed with us and oversaw that everything was done according to protocol. 

Was it worth it? Most definitely yes, although I am not sure I would volunteer again. But for that day, we were proudly a part of the democratic process and very proud to be Americans.