A few years back, after the dot-com crash and the post-9/11 tourism crash, when jobs in San Francisco of any variety were just about nonexistent, one of the few paying gigs left in town was working as an election clerk at a polling place.
My first experience was as an alternate clerk who was sent to a disaster zone in the Tenderloin district where a number of workers hadn't shown up, and the few who did were either drunk at 7AM or dealing with severe dementia. Matters weren't helped by the fact that two precinct polling places were put into opposite sides of the same old people's housing highrise which managed to confuse everyone, particularly the elderly residents themselves.
That was an election during the institutionally corrupt Willie Brown Jr.'s reign, when there was a new election director every year just to make sure things were as disorganized and ripe for malfeasance as possible, and this particular election they ran out of ballots at many polling places, possibly because one of our demented workers managed to spoil at least 300 ballots all on her very own.
My polling place adventures have become less extreme since then, partly because conditions in the Department of Elections have improved since the crooked Mr. Brown departed from office, but it still felt a bit like watching sausage made every election. It's an imperfect business at best.
This year I attended a four-hour course in order to be an alternate "Inspector," which is not what it sounds like. The Inspector is the head person at each precinct who is supposed to be there from the beginning (at 6AM) to the end (usually around 10PM) running the polling place. What "alternate" means is that I'm going to City Hall at six tomorrow morning, where I will probably be sent to some hellhole where the Inspector has shown up drunk, doped or crazy, or simply hasn't shown up at all. I'll be sure to document every strange moment.
In San Francisco, you can vote in the basement of City Hall for a couple of weeks preceding the election, so go today if you want to miss out on the madness tomorrow.
As for the issues and candidates, I'd encourage you to read h. brown's informed and hilarious recommendations (click here for candidates and here for propositions) that includes phrases like:
Board of Equalization, District 1
Hey, I don’t even know what the hell the ‘Board of Equalization’ does. Sometimes they send me threatening bills accusing me of not paying taxes on my extensive oil and gas holdings but other than that, they’re a complete mystery to me.
The Democratic candidate isn’t a mystery. She’s a shill for the local SF Downtown cabal and has been for many years. The Republican is, well, a Republican. Sooo, since I’ve decided that the task of the Board of Equalization is to keep things unequal on the side of the rich, I’m endorsing Libertarian, Kennita Watson in an attempt to instill some chaos. That, and there’s no Green candidate.
Also, check out Mike Lin's Potrero Hill neighborhood blog (click here) which has a heartfelt plea on the San Francisco School Board races.
Finally, if you live in District Six, please vote to re-elect Supervisor Chris Daly. While working on this blog over the last year, I've met him in person a number of times, and the fire-breathing monster that he is portrayed as by the local mainstream media is pure crap. He's a good, charming person, and smart as a whip. His major opponent, Rob Black, who used to work for the loathsome Supervisor Michela Piers-Alioto, has run one of the most disgusting campaigns seen in this city, fueled by heaps of cash from some of the most reactionary figures in San Francisco. Black has even resorted to paying the homeless to pretend to be "Volunteers for Black" holding up signage around town (click here for the photo and story on SFist).
So, I'll see you at the election night parties.