Some things never change…

More than 50 years after I graduated from college, I still have occasional dreams about not finishing a final assignment in class, missing too many classes, flunking a final exam and not being able to graduate. I’m told that this is a fairly common phenomenon, probably because for the first time in our young lives we were faced with the responsibility and stress of getting things done without our parents nagging or having a watchful eye on our schoolwork.

I think lots of students do this. They wait until the last minute to cram for an exam, throw together a semester paper a week before classes end or try to speed read a textbook that was gathering dust on a shelf in the dorm for most of the year.

Of course, the goody two-shoes students who got 4.0 gradepoints were always on top of things. I wasn’t one of those, but I did make it through in five years while working full-time and graduated with a gradepoint that actually improved significantly in my last four semesters. (Patting myself on the back “:^)

This kind of procratinating student behavior was evident on general election day when I worked as a same day registration clerk at a voting site near the campus of New Mexico State University.

Apparently, the waiting lines at the NMSU voting site at Corbett Center were extremely long, especially toward the end of the day. Our site was the next closest polling place to the campus. As a result, students who didn’t want to keep waiting in line to vote, thought they could get an easy way out of procrastinating by coming to our polling location.

Traffic at our polling place had been steady all day long, with never more than about 10 people waiting in line to vote.

Then at about 6:30 that all changed when we had a flood of students show up to vote. Many of the students had registered in their home town in a different county and some had never registered to vote. As the same day registration clerk, it was my job to process all of these students so they could then vote legally. When the polls closed at 7 p.m., all of the regular voters had been able to cast their ballots. But I was faced with a line of 30 students needing to register or change their address before they could cast their ballot in Dona Ana County.

It was frustrating. One kid showed up and forgot his driver’s license, which was needed for identification so he could change his address. He sent someone to the dorm to fetch it for him. When he appeared before me the next time, he forgot his Social Security number — also needed to change voter registration.

“Would your parents have it,” I asked.

“Uh well, maybe. I don’t know,” he said.

A few minutes later, he had managed to track down his parents on the phone to give him his Social Security number.

I put in that information, along with his driver’s license number and then asked him for his new address.

“Uh, I live on campus,” he said.

“I have to have a physical street address,” I answered.

“Uh, I don’t know what that is. I’m in Pinon Dorm Roof 252D. Does that work?” he asked.

I told him again that I needed a physical street address and suggested he might look on Google Maps to come up with one. Finally, he found one and after three tries, I was able to change his voter registration to Dona Ana County.

This wasn’t the only such case. Most students on campus didn’t have the slightest clue about what their street address might be or remembered their Social Security number. At one point, with about 25 students still waiting in line, I stood up and somewhat gruffly announced that they would all need a driver’s license or other photo ID, Social Security number and a physical street address. There was an audible groan and you could see many of them frantically checking their phones for that information.

When I finally processed the last registration/address change, it was about 8:30 p.m. All of the other workers at the poll had been done with their jobs shortly after closing time at 7 p.m. And by the time I took the ballots to the Election Bureau warehouse, it was after 11 p.m. I had started my day at the polls at 6 a.m.

Overall, my time as a poll worker was a satisfying experience. There was a lot of dead time during my two and one-half weeks at an early voting site. Election day was satisfying, helping people correct the information on their voter registration records or registering first time voters.

And I thought it was important to see the process from an insider’s viewpoint, given all of the claims of voter fraud that had been circulating in the past two years. I can say without hesitation that I saw nothing of that nature during my tenure an election clerk. And I have great respect for all the people who work long hours for very little pay to make sure Democracy is working.

But for Pete’s sake, if you’re going to change your voter registration address or register to vote for the first time, come prepared. Bring your darn photo ID, Social Security number and current physical address with you.

One thought on “Some things never change…

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