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by Autumn Smith
Many people have been asking me what happened at the polls after I posted that a poll worker had threatened to call the police on me and harassed me while I was trying to vote.
At about 10:30am on 8/7/2012 I went to Precinct 1 located at Wattles Park Elementary School, Emmett Township, Calhoun County, Michigan to participate and cast my ballot in the primary election. I parked my car in a normal parking spot across from the voting entrance, grabbed my purse and walking cane and entered the polling location.
I stopped at the first table where I filled out the first form that asks if I am a U.S. citizen and then asks for my address and signature. I was then directed to the second table where I handed them the form I filled out at the first table and also my voter registration card to the worker; they asked me for a photo ID. I handed them my photo press credientials, which are legal identification and contains my photo, address, and signature on it. Again, I also handed them my signed voter registration card. The poll worker asked for my drivers license and I told her that I just handed her photo ID that was legitimate and also my voter registration card. The poll worker behind the computer told me that my voter registration "didn't mean anything." The other poll worker, who I later learned was named Debra Herman, made a phone call ( I am assuming to the clerks office) to verify if my press credientials were a valid form of ID. After receiving approval from the person on the phone, I was then given my ballot.
After receiving my ballot, I made my way over to the handicap area to vote and sat down to begin voting. I had just started to remove my ballot from the envelope when Debra Herman, the poll worker, approached me and told me I had to move my car. Debra stated that I couldn't have my car out there because of the statement painted on it which included Jase Bolger's name--he is an elected official. I then explaind that it is not campaign material on my car, nothing on my car said "Vote For", "Elect", "Don't Vote", etc. I will also note that I do have other more political stickers about corporate personhood and Mitt Romney on my car, but those were not addressed nor were they the reason why I was aked to move my car. I was explicitly told it was becaue my back wind shield said "Dear Jase Bolger: VAGINA!" That phrase had been on my window for almost two months.
Debra told me I had to move my car across the street away from the polls. I explained to her that I am disabled and that I did not have to move my car as I was not violating any rules or laws. She then told me to give her my keys and she would move it for me. I refused. She then said that she was going to call the cops and then pulled out her cell phone. I said okay: if you quit harassing me and let me vote, I will be done and gone by the time the cops get here. I then proceeded to cast my ballot. (Due to the harassment by the poll worker and threat of the cops being called, I was frazzled and forgot to vote on the back of my ballot.)
I then turned my ballot in to the machine and exited the polls. Outside, standing on the sidewalk behind my car, I spotted Debra on the phone, to which I asked if I needed to stick around and wait for the cops to show up. She replied no, that I was correct. I then told her that I appreciate the work they do, but that this was the worst voting experience I have had in the 10 years I have been voting. I also informed her that I am a political activist and I do know and respect the law and I knew that I was not violating any laws or statutes.
Upon retrurning home, I made calls to some individuals including the Election Clerk and explained the situation. She agreed that what happend was not right and that the poll worker should not have treated me the way she did. I also contacted Election Protection. I was able to capture some of the audio exchange on tape which has been sent with my email to Election Protection. Upon speaking with Election Protection, I was aksed if I knew the name of the poll worker who gave me problems. I replied no, but that I would be willing to go down to the polls to find out since I live a very short distance away.
The video below is the exchange I had when i returned to the polls to get the worker's name.
I do feel there is a strong possibility that I was targeted due to the political activist work I do and because I was the petitioner in 2011 who tried to recall Jase Bolger. Nothing was said about my car while I was at the first table or second table, it was not until they had my name and contact info and I was seated, begining to cast my balllot that I was approached.
I have to give a huge thanks to Election Protection for their timely response to my issue and forwarding the issue up the line of command. I have been contacted by various agencies who are looking into this matter further.
If you have any issues at the polls, PLEASE document them and contact 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Elections are no joke, they need to be protected and each person treated with respect. Do not let poll workers try to harass or intimidate you. You have the right to a fair and free election and we need to make sure that no one violates that sacraed part of our democracy.
:: photo courtesy of author ::
Autumn Smith is a political activist from Michigan. Her activism has targeted key issues including, Mich. Enbridge Oil Spill, LGBT issues, HIV education, anti-bullying, reproductive rights, Occupy Movement & petitioning elected officials for recall.