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Democracy by Little Ol’ Us


Open wide the doors to democracy.

That’s what I thought, in amazement, when our parish school was asked to be a substitute polling precinct. Who knew asbestos-remediating construction workers eating lunch with 3rd Graders could shut down another school precinct? We’d be happy to serve!

Open wide the doors to democracy.

That’s also what I groaned, in amazement, when my Saturday alarm beeped to life at 5 a.m. Who knew that time existed? Thanks a lot, asbestos-remediating construction workers. Time to serve.

By the time I made it to the school parking lot, I was late. At least later than one of the poll workers, eager to check in for her dusk-to-dusk, 14-hour shift.

Since the 2020 election, these workers and their machines have generated a lot of press. As the guy with a ring of keys and knowledge of the location of the light switches, I was always impressed by how well it all worked. The machines showed up, the workers showed up, the voters showed up, and then they all left — having pushed around a few “I voted” stickers.

In Orleans Parish, the Criminal Clerk’s Office is responsible for this movement. (Big bonus points if you knew that. Print this out and you’ll get to vote twice Saturday.) They examined our site, communicated professionally, and followed the election-day script. In short, government working, really working!

Which was especially helpful for that first Saturday election.

After I wiped my joyous tears with the Federalist Papers — open wide the doors to democracy, little us! — and circled the grand ol’ flag date, I realized we might be due for a few headaches. Polling precinct basic training is not for the faint of heart — or the failing of air conditioning.

Yep, after signing off on our civic service, the church AC went down. But at least we’re not kicking around asbestos, right? That meant the Saturday Vigil Mass needed to go into the school cafeteria, which meant the voting machines could go…down the first-floor hallway?

And then the basketball team needed to practice that morning. In the school parking lot. Which meant I could direct the pre-dawn parking to…the other side of the yard?

And then I caught a Saturday morning funeral. Which meant this whole voting day could…just take care of itself?

Good first impressions. James Madison, take the wheel!

And yet it all worked. Voters did not sue under the federal prohibition of vote casting claustrophobia — those stickers went a long way. Poll commissioners handled the changes smoothly — the cookies and coffee went even longer.

And, eventually, I got to shut the doors to democracy. Around 8 p.m., the last vote was cast, setting into motion those previously stationary volunteers. Each precinct’s tally printed out and taped to the door. Each machine turned off and covered and secured. Each commissioner, with personal items and leftover snacks collected, headed to the car.

Except one. There’s always one, right? Waiting for a ride from a friend, who also worked a polling site Uptown. Or was it Algiers?

At 9:30, you could have convinced me of Algeria.

Eventually, the car lights shone out and the cafeteria lights went out, ending our great democracy day.

As I walked out of the darkened parking lot — 17 hours after I walked into it — I can’t really say I was walking astride Thomas Jefferson and MLK and LBJ.

The greatness of democracy is usually simpler than that.

I was walking out with that last poll worker. An election had happened, and we had opened the doors to democracy. Little ol’ us.



And now for something utterly unrelated. One of the benefits of COVID-law school was at-home exams. No, not so a small firm of students can tackle a marathon exam like it was a relay race. Not even for having the law in my own words a control+v away from insertion. At-home exams are best because of the music. When I have a non-stop three hours, instrumental music helps my brain flow. I have multiple hours-and-hours-long classical cuts to serve that purpose. What I’ve more recently enjoyed, though, are classical covers of popular music. I know enough contemporary music to appreciate the beat but little enough to avoid getting sucked into the lyrics — because I don’t know them. Many thanks to WWOZ for that. Here’s a nice list for your next 90 minutes of work.





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