Thursday, 21 June 2012


No photos - just prose with this one.

I don't know if I could be considered a 'beggar for punishment' or not but, for many years, I have worked in polling stations and - by and large - I have enjoyed the experiences.

The first time was when I was a Pastor at Westboro United Church in Ottawa. One of the women at that church was quite involved in the voting process. An election had been called and there were not many people who were rushing forward to work so she asked me if I would? I replied, "Sure!"

I was a Poll Clerk working with an older gentleman who was the Deputy Returning Officer. The poll was situated in the lobby of a nice apartment building. Everything was going smoothly until the boyfriend of one of the young female tenants arrived to be registered and then to vote.

The DRO turned him down flat - not because he was ineligible to vote there but because he was 'living in sin' with the young lady. I knew that that was wrong - all a Deputy Returning Officer is allowed to do is to ascertain that a voter is properly registered and nothing else! I was indignant but, as I was the Poll Clerk, I could not override him. However, I was able to get the voter to one side and advised him to go to the Returning Office where he would be registered and allowed to vote. Also, I apologized for the obstinacy of the elderly DRO.

While I was the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Vancouver I was asked to be a scrutineer  on behalf of my favorite political party in a nearby poll. At that time, the sitting member was the Honorable Pat Carney who was very popular with the electorate.

In the neighborhood of the poll was a halfway house for mental patients. One of the male residents dropped by to vote. His name was on the Voter's List, he could prove his address, so he was given a ballot. He was away behind a voter's screen for quite a while and finally returned handing the Deputy Returning Officer a badly mutilated ballot - he had carefully torn the paper all around the name of his choice (Ms. Carney) and left the rest of the ballot behind the voter's screen. His selection was clear to us but we had to issue a second ballot and strongly state that he was not to tear the ballot in any way but simply to place an "X"  beside the name of his choice and then refold the ballot so that his choice could not be seen by another. He voted correctly on his second try.

A few years later I was living in the Victoria suburb of Esquimalt when another Federal election was called. This voting district was new and the proper name was 'Esquimalt Juan de Fuca' which we had to hand write on every document that we handled. Not only was I the Deputy Returning Officer but I was one of the enumerators who canvassed the neighborhood in order to up date the Voters' List before the election. That cumbersome name had to be written - or printed out - in full on every voter registration.

Going back in time, during the summer that I spent in Namu, there had been another Federal Election and I was the Poll Clerk on that day. One of my neighbors  was a strongly opinionated Dutchman and he loudly told everybody in and near the Polling Station for whom he was voting. Although I agreed with his choice, I had to admonish him NOT to make such a loud announcement in the polling place.

Upon moving to Toronto I was able to augment my income by working during a number of elections. On at least two occasions this meant enumerating new voters. As I like people, I enjoyed this. There was an amusing incident that occurred while I was enumerating.

Immediately behind the building in which I live is a convent belonging to the Loretto Sisters. As the nuns were transferred between the convents belonging to the order the list of voters for that residence had to be updated. At that time I was carrying a pager in a front pant pocket. I was sitting on a soft couch when the pager vibrated. To get it to stop I had to rise, reach into my pocket, and press a button and during the process I apologized to the Sister who was being interviewed by me. As soon as my task in the convent was completed I walked to a pay telephone up the block and I was highly amused by the message which I received - a 'call girl' had the wrong number and was telephoning about a prospective date!  

For one of the elections I was employed as Security in a group of polls held at the Fred Victor Mission. As this is a residence for indigent men, those about on the periphery were 'entertaining' to say the least! That neighborhood (Queen Street East at Jarvis) was in transition and many of the voters had recently  moved into new condominium buildings. I was amused by those whose sensibilities were aroused when they came to vote. Sure, the denizens of the building were recovering alcoholics and/or drug users but they were individuals and should be treated as such.

Those of us who work for the Federal, Provincial or Civic Government during elections are paid for our time and the pay is a welcome addition to a tight budget. Our last Civic Election was in the autumn of 2010 and I registered to work during that day (actually at the poll held in this very building). A few days later I received a notice in the mail - I was being called for possible jury duty and was obliged to be at the Court House first thing in the morning of Election Day! After spending a number of days sitting in jury selection rooms - and interviewed as a possible juror in one trial - I was sent home.

I was not paid for that idle time and I missed out on upwards to $200 paid to those who worked at a poll. That was not fair - but, oh well!

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