At last. I can finally check “have mug shot taken” off my bucket list. So how did I happen to get in front of a police camera, holding a white board in front of my chest, with my name and date printed on it? And was I able to smile?
I’ll answer the second question first: Yes, I did indeed smile. So, those of you who are mug shot experts will know from THAT answer that I didn’t get there by robbing a bank, committing arson or assaulting a president. Because, as the officer/photographer explained to me, criminals aren’t allowed to smile.
And no, I wasn’t picked up for protesting (peacefully or otherwise). Instead, I was there being fingerprinted and photographed because I offered to help out with the upcoming election’s mail in vote. You see, I figured the very nice people working in the Board of Elections Office are going to be bombarded this November. Not only that, but they are going to be subjected to all kinds of criticism, and speculation of misdeeds that will appear on Facebook as ‘fact”, most likely posted by people who wouldn’t know a fact if it bit them on the ass.
Caring deeply about our country, and recognizing how important voting is to our democracy, I figured it would be patriotic to help out.
In our area, at least, you have to be highly motivated to volunteer because after you fill out two forms, you have to make an appointment for 7:30 PM at the county sheriff’s department to get your glamour shot and fingerprints done. Of course, when I arrived at what I THOUGHT was the sheriff’s office, the building was locked up, and there was no one in sight. But I am resourceful–I saw the next building had lights on, so I pressed the button to be admitted. Once inside, I saw a young male counting out a huge wad of money, which I found to be interesting and slightly unusual, but eventually figured out it he was probably bailing someone out. Yep, I was standing in the entry to the county jail. After further instructions and a phone call, I returned to the main building and eventually was let in to be “processed” by the very friendly and helpful officer.
The best part? They no longer smear all that black gunk over your fingers to take your prints. (I hated that) But that’s not all. I also learned that because I am not (so far) a criminal, a teacher, an officer of the law, or a politician, my finger prints are not kept on file in some database. Once a background check is completed, your digits are deleted. (I know, you’re probably thinking “what an educational and enlightening this post turned out to be”. You’re welcome.)
Next step was completing the background check, which I imagined in addition to being bone jarringly boring — I was FAR more intriguing during my college days — included a glance at my voting record. I had been asked whether I was able to be non-partisan, and although I CLEARLY have strong opinions about the current administration, that is probably true of 95% of the American population. (The other 5% is most likely in a coma.) Still, I can put my feelings aside to do a job professionally and ethically. Out of curiosity, however, I looked on line at my voting record and was surprised to see that I had registered as a Republican three times, as a Democrat four times and as an independent TWENTY EIGHT times for the last thirty five elections I’ve voted in.
So, after all that, what has my volunteer work entailed? So far I have completed two days on the job. The first day I spent detaching the signature “flap” from the sealed envelope containing the ballot. This protects the confidentiality of the vote. The next day, I took ballots (from a different city) out of envelopes and inspected them to make sure they could be processed by machine. If not, then I put them aside to be hand counted and I completed a tally sheet to ensure that all ballots (and envelopes) are accounted for. The ballots are kept by voting district to be machine counted, and the flaps and envelopes are retained, in case there are any questions down the road.
I’m glad that New Jersey is able to start the process 10 days before Election Day, because there is a lot of work involved. I was impressed by the multiple checks and counts to ensure that all ballots are protected. People are working hard to make this election a successful and fair process. Plus, I’m gaining additional respect for those who do repetitive, manual labor. Let me tell you, it takes its toll–at least it has on me!