May 30, 2012

Here's A Quarter

A couple of days ago, I wrapped up a 6-year stint working in a local elections office. As is the custom, I was feted with lunch, followed by cake and the presentation of a basket filled with mementos and gifts, all of which was very nice and very much appreciated. Among the items in the basket was a quarter. Registering my quizzical look, the basket's chief designer repeated a quote I sometimes thought aloud after listening to the complaints of an especially tiresome caller: "Here's a quarter ... call someone who cares."

The irony, of course, is that people who work in elections care very much about their work. I have to say that my six years--during which I went through nine elections--was an eye-opening experience. Most folks have no idea how much hard work goes on behind the scenes to stage an election. A typical county may have dozens of polling places that have to be located, equipped, and staffed by volunteers who in turn need to be recruited, trained, and motivated to work a ridiculously long day for very little pay.

And the fruits of all these labors? An indifferent electorate that seldom bothers to show up to vote. Imagine you decided to throw an elaborate party, invited 100 of your closest friends, rented a hall, hired a caterer, printed up menus and after all that only 30 some odd folks bothered to show up. That's pretty much what happens every time we hold an election. Most registered voters stay away from the polls. A forty-percent turnout would be considered massive.  Of course that doesn't stop the no-shows from bitching and moaning about politics any chance they get, to which I say, "Here's a quarter ... call someone who cares ... and pray someone is there to answer."

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