Friday Feature 1.24.20
I was outside walking (literally) the walk not just talking the talk. This psyco Texas weather was lousy. It was a cold, rainy, and windy day in late October, and I was on my way to protect your right to vote as an undercover secret-agent of the Election Protection Team (via moveon.org).
I had been in Alief for about three weeks and was still settling in and learning how to “Ride Metro”. I’d checked out all the routes to see how to get to my assigned polling place. It wasn’t far and the bus was still confusing, so I walked… in the cold… in the wind… and in the rain. My allergies were not being kind to my face and the weather was not being kind to my attitude, yet still I walked on. Approximately twenty-one minutes later, I arrived at my destination.
Vote (^Not) Suppressed…
I got there and looked around for someone to check in with. There were a few people milling around right beyond the 100-yard line. There was one tent, and no one under it looked at me, waved, smiled, or acknowledged my existence. I wondered what the hell they were running for and why they weren’t interested in offering me a spot out of the rain or in getting my vote. 💁🏽♀️ The other folks were gathered in clusters of two or three and chatting or sitting inside their vehicles to get out of the weather. No one seemed particularly interested in me after I told them that I was there to volunteer.
So, I walked on inside the building and decided to go ahead and vote. I was reasonably certain that I would not be allowed to vote because that’s just how my life works. 🤷🏽♀️🙄🤣 Also, I was registered to vote in Galveston County and due to my hasty exit from the area– and life as I had known it, I had not updated my registration. While I was training and fretting about how I could get back to Galveston County to vote, I learned something.
I stood in line not very confident that I could vote on this limited ballot. And of course, that was exactly the case. At least I couldn’t vote at that location. Only downtown. Apparently, I did learn something, but also, I did NOT learn that I could only vote at the MAIN early voting location which was located in downtown Houston. So, after talking to some people and asking some questions, I inquired about checking in for my volunteer shift. After receiving blank stares, I returned outside… thoroughly, bummed, because I believed my vote had been suppressed and I had already failed at the only job I was there to do. 😔
As I stood under the awning, contemplating how I could schedule a bus ride downtown when I was already obligated to volunteer at this particular location for the remainder of early voting (🤷🏽♀️), I took a minute to breathe, observe the scene in nature, and get my bearings out of the harsh weather conditions. It was then that I realized that I was it. I was the Election Protection Team at that polling location. (That possibly could be when words like “undercover” and “secret-agent” started floating around. 💁🏽♀️ 😏🤣)
As per usual, I kind of stood apart from everyone and waited to see if anyone wanted to talk to me. TBTH, I very rarely approach people, as I feel that I bother everyone. Eventually the crowd sans tent, opened up and made friendly gestures. These are some of the stories I heard during this adventure…
After about an hour, the desire for a cigarette hit, but as I was surrounded by ISD property, I was unsure of how to proceed. I was back under the awning (because I wanted to sit down, and the only available spot was on the ground…which was wet. (🙄 Lort. I miss my outside chairs!) 😔 Any hoo, an older white lady came out and greeted me. She said, “Welp, I’m about to go pollute the air.” I hopped up and scrambled after her saying, “I’m coming with!”
I discovered that I was speaking to a county clerk. This lady was a feisty 78-year-old White-American who had some very interesting ideas. She was indeed a republican and stated that most REAL republicans do not claim Mr. Trump. She had some very interesting ideas about race and race relations, but I actually think we were in agreement more often than not. And while some of our individual points of contention varied, I can’t say that her view was “wrong”. Just different and something I hadn’t thought about. We seemed to be concerned about the same issues, but our proposed solutions were WAY different. There is hope here, because I think our end goals are in alignment.
What I Learned:
Smoking IS permitted on the sidewalk that runs by the street in ISD areas in Houston…however whether each individual agent of law enforcement is aware of this is unknown. If the laws rolled up on me and had something to say about it, I personally would extinguish my cigarette while politely stating my case.
After that encounter, I returned to the other people braving the weather for their own objectives. At some point, I was asked exactly what I was doing there. I explained and was immediately labeled a spy. (I liked it. Fit in perfectly with “undercover” and “secret-agent”. 😏 🤣) In the course of our dialogue, it was pointed out that I wasn’t really approaching many of the exiting voters. I explained that if they were proudly wearing their “I voted” sticker (which I coveted more than anything!), then they obviously encountered no issues. If I didn’t see a sticker and could reach them before they got into their car (raining, remember?), I asked questions.
While doing just that, two white ladies, just about to enter the polls, approached. One had received a letter about the REAL TEXAS ID. You know, the one with the gold star. The question was “My license doesn’t expire until after 2020. Why do I have to renew it in order to vote? Isn’t that like paying to vote?” The letter itself did appear to be intimidating and worrisome. So, I contacted the hotline which connected me to the boiler room–with civil rights lawyers on standby. I sent the letter, and the situation was thoroughly researched.
By the end of Day 1, I had made a few new friends and we gathered to take a selfie!
What I Learned:
This law does not affect your right to vote. You may still vote if you do not have a gold star. You can even vote if your ID is expired. If you have any difficulty, please call 866-OUR-VOTE.
As I approached the polling place on day two, I noticed that some people just were not following the rules. There was one candidate, who had a rather large presence at our location, whose signs lived beyond the 100-yard line. I didn’t see any voter suppression going on, so I mostly just engaged voters and played around with my new friends.
I chatted with a pretty funny guy running for the school board. We joked about how he kept his SUV running the entire time (for heat). I kept asking him about his stance on Climate Change. 💁🏽😏🤣 We spoke about several things: the violations of the 100-yard line, the two high schools side by side that were segregated and not nearly equal. 🤯, and the “take-over” of the area by Vietnamese-Americans.
I, also, spoke with a black lady who told me about her strategy for forcing her children to vote. I really admired her for her stance, but I felt bad because I have 4 ladies of voting age in my very small circle who refuse to even entertain the idea and are very uninterested in talking about current issues or politics… 😔This will be something that I will continue to work on.
What I Learned:
There are still segregated schools in Texas. 🤯🤯🤯 Hyphenated-American groups tend to support their own and not intermingle too much. 😔Individuals (even candidates) don’t take responsibility for climate change. 🙄
It was Halloween and I went as myself, Queen of Everything I Do and Everywhere I Am, tiara and all. Tensions began getting hot at our little polling location. The tent people were not only violating the 100-yard rule, they were also hanging out in the bathrooms, chatting with voters standing in line, and just boldly following folks into the building. The issue here was that the voters and the campaign workers were speaking in Vietnamese which no one could understand. The campaign workers, of course, claimed that they were not speaking about the election. The voters in question had limited English so neither side could prove any wrong-doing.
All of this was beyond the scope of my job description, so I just lurked around, looked, listened and laughed a great deal. I guess someone filed a formal complaint, and the Election Judge called in reinforcements for the following day. Soon after, several of the candidates hauled ass never to be seen by me again…(as I was not working the following day.)
I spoke with a candidate running for City Council District F about some issues in the area and offered to be of service if there was a need. We discussed how District F is known as the “forgotten” district. Also the area being taken over by the Vietnamese business class came up, again. I had previously noticed that the street signs were in both American English and Vietnamese, which I thought was odd… Only because I have never seen an area where the street signs were in both English and Spanish. 💁🏽♀️ 🤷🏽♀️ I was told that District F had no voice in city hall and all community outreach programs were routinely voted against. And some extra tea that was spilt was that the candidate in the tent, who was breaking all the rules, didn’t even reside in District F. He was a proud homeowner in District K. 🙄🤣
I spoke to more candidates. I noticed some good things and questioned some not so good things. For instance, the Vietnamese candidates provided busses for their voting citizens. I did not see any busses bringing any other Hyphenated-Americans to my polling place. Bill Thomas, running for Mayor, stopped by. I didn’t not see any other Mayoral candidates while I was there.
What I Learned:
I need some winter clothing and boots…And a purple chair. 🙄 💁🏽♀️ There will always be people who want to be in charge but believe that they are above the law. There is work for me to do here in Alief.
Undercover Secret-Agent, Team Member, Volunteer, Regular Person whatever my “official” title was, no votes were suppressed on my watch. Except for mine… But I was the one who suppressed it. To ensure that this will not be my testimony come March 3rd (sooner if possible), I dropped my updated registration form in the mail on January 17, 2020! I also signed up to take on another Undercover Secret-Agent assignment during Early Voting beginning on February 18, 2020!
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