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About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   October 2008

Election Judge

Page: 2

Krueger is married, has two grown kids, and is also very active in wilderness and environmental issues locally. He works as a volunteer for the BLM as part of its Wilderness Watch program, where a couple of volunteers are sent out monthly to spot-check BLM land holdings for needed maintenance or other issues that may arise.

By noon, only 70 of 630 registered voters in Precinct 110 had shown up. That is about 10 an hour. Everyone had brought some type of busy work to help occupy the time, and since we were not allowed off the grounds for the entire day, I went to speak with some friends who work at the museum to see if we could use their lunchroom. Not a problem, and soon we were taking turns, one at a time, for a half-hour lunch break.

Things didn't pick up during the lunch hour, and by this point, since we all knew that these day-long relationships would end early this evening, we had pretty much imparted what we wanted to share to each other. Al Krueger and I secretly talked about politics, trashing almost everyone who is currently in office, locally and nationally. We continued to watch as the mountains and their shadows changed color. I had forgotten how much I missed living in the park at Dripping Springs, which is flush against the Organ Mountains, and is certainly one of the most beautiful spots in the state.

Voting got a bit busier later in the afternoon, but not much. I tried to bring on further excitement for myself by browsing the rosters to see which political party my neighbors affiliate themselves with, and was truly surprised by the almost 50-50 split between (R) and (D). In fact, some that I assumed would be (D) are in fact not.

Several voters who, like myself, are (I) came in to vote, not knowing that unless you are an (R) or a (D), you don't count this time. All complained, I agreed wholeheartedly, and we all concluded that the entire election process is seriously flawed from start to finish.

A couple of people found the machines too difficult to operate and did something wrong while trying to simply slip the ballot into the machine, in any direction, unfolded. Origami was popular. Later, a mismarked ballot (not a hanging chad) kept us at the polling station for an extra hour.

The biggest excitement of the afternoon started when a man came in and tried to vote at the other precinct station that we are sharing the space with. The problems arose for several reasons: He apparently can't speak English (something I questioned, since he did seem to pay attention to conversations around him), he was not in the proper place to vote, he was not on anyone's register, and, worst of all, he appeared to be a complete moron.

For almost 45 minutes, the judges at the other polling station worked with the man, first trying to get him to go to where he should be, and then finally allowing him to vote. But then he had no idea how to vote or whom to vote for. If it were me, I'd have sent the man packing after five minutes, but he voted somehow, and then he hung around for a while longer asking questions that no one understood.

Finally, it was time for the polls to close. During the 12 or so hours that we worked, a total of 156 residents voted, 67 (D) and 89 (R) for Precinct 110. I was surprised by the low turnout and by the number of (R)s in the area, where Pearce beat Wilson 57-32. I was pleased that some of the folks I would have voted for, had my constitutional right as a registered voter in the kingdom of New Mexico been extended to me, nevertheless won.

I was also surprised to note that there were no couples who would cancel each other's votes come November — if the husband was an (R), the wife was an (R), too. There were no young people at all, except for a few "homemakers" with small children. Probably the youngest voter was my neighbor, age 34, who tried to pick up a registration form for her partner and had words with the Presiding Judge (R) of the other precinct because of New Mexico's ridiculous voter-registration laws.

Somewhere, I made a note about how much this whole process cost per vote, which included the huge cost of the new high-tech voting machines, the salaries paid us for our work (I received $150 for about 15 hours' work, and there were a total of eight judges at our polling place alone) and other expenses. I misplaced that note, but it averaged out to about $1,000 per vote.

So, will I work in next month's general election, even if General Zod isn't on the ballot? Maybe. I can always use the money, and I might have the chance to spread this thought from Gene Admondson, the 2008 Prohibition Party presidential candidate: "Third-party people do not win but we say wise things."

And Lord knows, the current system is enough to drive anyone to drink.

Senior writer Jeff Berg casts his ballot in Las Cruces.

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