Guy W. Farmer: Carson City polling locations were nearly problem-free
After promoting freedom and democracy in several different foreign countries during my diplomatic career, I decided to get involved in grassroots democracy when I returned home to Carson City 1996. Since then, I’ve learned a lot as a volunteer poll worker in seven local and national elections, most recently last Tuesday at the new Fuji Park Exhibit Hall. Perhaps you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Before Tuesday’s election I read a lot of nonsense about voter fraud and how poll workers would be overwhelmed by heavy voter turnout in the presidential election battle between senators John McCain of Arizona and Barack Obama of Illinois, who is now our president-elect. Nothing of the sort happened here in Carson City even though the major political parties sent an army of California activists into Nevada to stir things up as poll watchers. I have news for those misguided folks: We don’t need Californians to come over here to show us how to conduct elections. Nevada isn’t California ” at least, not yet ” and we’d rather do things our way.
Carson City Clerk/Elections Chief Alan Glover and his staff conduct near-flawless elections every two years. While we hear about hanging chads in Florida and malfunctioning voting machines around the country, we have minimal problems in our local elections, thanks in part to state-of-the-art Sequoia “Edge” voting machines, which provide paper backup for electronic votes. In fact, after 12 years as a poll worker, I’ve seen very few electoral problems, including disputed ballots. And those that occur are usually resolved on the spot. Out at Fuji Park, where we were on our feet from 5:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., the election proceeded smoothly despite a record 93 percent turnout of Carson City voters. That’s a tribute to Glover and elections supervisors Sue Merriweather, Bob Sanders and Sylvia Yamamoto, among others.
One minor problem arose when a busybody California poll watcher decided to wander around looking over our shoulders. Deputy Sheriff Jerry Romero escorted the rogue observer back to his designated area, where he pouted alone. Another “problem” that wasn’t really a problem involved the voter registration of a local soldier who had served in Iraq. He was quickly certified as a registered voter and was proud to cast his ballot. He earned it, that’s for sure.
In past elections I’ve complained that most of the voters looked like me and my fellow seniors; however, that wasn’t the case last Tuesday. We cheered for many first-time voters and I was impressed by the numbers of young and minority voters who went to the polls. Obviously, our democracy works better when more citizens participate in the electoral process. Congratulations to us.
Although Carson City has traditionally voted Republican, Democrat Obama prevailed by 200 votes out of 23,000 that were cast here. Obama also won in Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno) counties while Republican McCain won 14 conservative “cow counties.” Which means that the face of Nevada politics is changing in favor of the Democrats, and that our formerly red state is rapidly turning purple.
The National Election
Even though Obama carried Nevada by a comfortable 55-43 percent margin, his long coattails couldn’t carry Democratic congressional candidate Jill Derby to victory in northern and rural Nevada as she lost to incumbent Republican Congressman Dean Heller of Carson City by 10 percentage points.
As for Obama himself, I never thought I would live to see an African-American politician inaugurated as president of the United States, which will take place in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2009, certainly a historic day in our representative democracy. I think his inauguration will finally validate our Constitution’s solemn guarantee that “all men (and women) are created equal.” As a lifelong civil rights advocate, I’m proud to note that most conscientious voters were able to ignore the racial garbage that was injected into the presidential election campaign; overall, this was a colorblind election. It was about time.
I think Obama will be the president of all Americans. During the campaign he was careful not to present himself as the black candidate for president and he avoided controversial black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Although Obama made a mistake by remaining in racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church for more than 20 years, he eventually did the right thing by denouncing his minister’s anti-white tirades and resigning from that church.
“Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country,” Sen. McCain said in his gracious concession speech. “We’ve come a long way from the old injustices that once strained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship.” McCain also said he would cooperate with Obama to search for solutions to the nation’s most pressing concerns, including two wars and a collapsing economy. President Bush chimed-in by calling Obama’s victory “a triumph of the American story,” and so it is.
And for his part Obama promised to reach across the political aisle in a bipartisan search for solutions to our concerns. “Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned our politics for so long,” he told a spirited rally in Chicago. “And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.” I sincerely hope he can translate those encouraging words into political reality. We’ll be watching closely as he takes office in mid-January.
Guy W. Farmer, a Carson City voter since 1962, worked the polls last Tuesday as an “assistant team leader” at the Fuji Park Exhibit Hall.