I Live in a Banana Republic

Today I voted at Hope High School in Providence, RI. When I arrived, there were no lines and things seemed calm. An elderly white woman was sitting at a desk outside with a sign saying "Exit Poll." Inside, there were three women, two black and one white, sitting at the registration desk. There was a white man with a clipboard sitting on a bench across from them, and a white woman sitting behind a table toward the back of the room. There was a tall, muscular, middle-aged white man wearing a yellow construction hat behind the registration desk. I did not know what he was doing there, but he looked official and tradesman-like, as if he was there to fix something.

Well, I gave my name to the middle-aged black woman behind the desk. She was looking it up in her book when the optical scanner, which was more or less behind her, jammed because someone had tried to push all three sheets of their ballot into the machine at once. The woman who was signing me in said something about the machine not working right. The big man in the yellow hat said something to her and pulled the ballot out. I don't know if he re-fed it, or what. I don't know if it was his ballot, it might have been. I noted it, because it looked weird, and then the woman behind the desk let me sign her book. I got a ballot and headed to the booth. The ballot that jammed the machine was gone. I figure it must have went in, the machine was fixed, hooray.

From behind me, the big man barked, "WHAT'S HER NAME?"

I turned around. He was barking at the poll worker, the middle-aged black woman.

"GRECO," she barked back.

So much for my anonymity. I start to shake. This is alarming. I'm pretty sure I'm being intimidated. All I want to do is cast my vote and get out of there. If I wasn't about to cast a ballot I would told him my name was none of his business. Now, after all is said and done, I wish I had.

Update: I called 1-866-OURVOTE and reported the incident. The person I spoke with told me that I'd been "challenged," that this is not an uncommon practice, and that the intimidation of the poll worker was wrong and probably illegal. Supposedly they are sending someone over there to make sure it doesn't happen again. (I also tried to report the incident to the RI Board of Elections but the Web form wasn't working, so I guess I'll just send it by mail.) Talking Points Memo reports that reported polling irregularities are so numerous, the ERIS (Election Incident Reporting System) has crashed.