[In 2016, I ran for local office. The events below occurred on June 16, 2016, at the candidate workshop led by the Broward SOE. The photo is of one of my campaign fundraisers; I’m on the right.]
I arrive at the Candidate Workshop, finally, late – but only by seven minutes, which is incredible, given where it is, and how difficult it is to find. I realize that I’ve been here a long time ago, making a “how to vote” video (where I perfected the role of a crotchety old woman, a role that’s getting closer to reality every day). I haven’t thought of that video in years.
UPDATED: Thanks to the good friend who produced this video, we’ve found it! Here it is:
Looking around the room, I see that it’s packed with about 60 people, many of whom have official-looking “packets”. I, of course, don’t have a packet. The officials announce that anyone who didn’t get packets can request that they be mailed to them, because they are out of packets, having only prepared packets for people who RSVP’d.
This is me, I think! Full of confidence and the self-righteousness of the prepared, I swagger up to the table and say, “I RSVP’d!” The official hands me a packet, but I soon realize that this cannot be “the” packet. Can it? The packet consists of a paper fan, some brochures about the importance of voting, and a pen. Is this really what’s causing all the “packet” furor? I’m new here, so I don’t say anything; the effort to keep my mouth shut drains me of any caffeine left in my body, just in time for the lights to dim.
The PowerPoint deck
In case you’re wondering, the lights were dimmed so we could more easily see a PowerPoint last updated around 1986. The speakers are equally engaging. I start to drift off, my eyes closing, and snap them open when I hear “Remember, you only have four days to file that.” File what??? There’s nothing on the slide about this either, of course, and it’s not on the fan, the pen or the brochures.
Thankfully, the conversation livens up, and I watch, aghast, as a near-riot (Near-Riot #1) breaks out over the meaning of what “noon on Friday” means. This debate lasts for five minutes; luckily, the authorities didn’t have to be called to restore order.
At 10:30, 90 minutes after the torture fest began, people just start walking out. I admit to myself that this is pretty much a fiasco, and I dare anyone in this room to know what to do after this workshop; the instructions are less clear than IKEA’s, and I’m sure that there are a million parts missing from the box package.
A Fan and a Pen
I don’t see any of my competitors here – either they sent their treasurers/advisors, or were smart enough to skip it altogether. The speaker says something ominous about, “When you file, we can tell you if your documents are complete, but not if they are accurate.” OK, that makes sense. I’m hoping that no one here expected officialdom to actually – what, check your math? Know if you were hiding a donation? I begin to feel like anything I knew before I got here has been drained from my head, replaced with a fan and a pen.
Determined to stay until the bitter end, I attempt to pay close attention to even the more arcane rules – such as “Special District candidates are the only ones who can write personal checks.” I have many questions that I don’t dare ask:
- What is a “Special District Candidate”?
- Write a personal check to whom?
- Who in the universe came up with these rules?
- Where are the rules? Are they printed on the fan in invisible ink?
- Will there be a quiz? If so, do the people who pass get the special light that shows the invisible ink?
Filing on Time
The next section covers the timeframe for filing on time (because the five-minute argument about what “noon” means wasn’t enough). We are advised to file as early as possible the week of the 20th so if something is inaccurate, they can let us know. But wait! I think. You JUST SAID that the staff can’t check the accuracy of our documents! I don’t understand.
Arcane Rule #376: County candidates who decide to withdraw must (can?) do so online. All others must (can?) withdraw with a paper letter. To whom would a candidate send this letter? Is there a URL for submitting the withdrawal online? I don’t understand, but I’m not a county candidate, so I let it go.
Near-Riot #2: At this point, I may have blacked out, but I know that there was a ten-minute argument about “nicknames.” I think it has to do with the accuracy/completeness of your filing paperwork. I hope there’s not a quiz.
I’ll Never Get My Packet
The best part – qualifying begins in four days, and lasts for five day…no, wait. It lasts 4 ½ days. By now, we should all certainly understand what “noon on Friday” means. Also, if it begins in four days, I have no idea how we’re going to get our “mailed packets” in time because – wait for it! – they did not collect our addresses when we signed in.
The speaker points to a “Candidate Checklist” on the podium, which I believe I didn’t get, since it’s not in my “packet”. I wonder if anyone will notice if I steal it at the end.
Speaking of the end, mercifully, the last slide appears. I know it’s the last slide because my superior detecting skills observe a slide that says “The End” in a frilly cursive script with a little curlicue border. My God!
But wait, it’s not over! P.S. to “The End” – yes, there is a slide after “The End” slide – you can pre-submit before the filing period opens on 6/20 to your city clerk – I.DO.NOT.UNDERSTAND. I hope there’s not a quiz. Also, because I’ve been sitting for two hours, my feet are killing me, because I’m wearing appropriate “candidate” shoes.
“The End” is not “The End”
At this point, the pain in my feet and the pounding in my head has blocked out any other information of consequence, particularly since my brain shut off when I saw “The End” slide. But no, it’s not the end! Why would it be???
Another candidate stands up, from another district. If you thought five minutes to debate the meaning of “noon” was the icing on the cake, you’re in for a real treat! The group embarks on a lively, 20-minute debate (Near-Riot #3) about the meaning of “100 feet away.” All I can think is “I’d like to be 100 miles away right now, but my feet are killing me and…is there a quiz at the end, which by the way I thought happened when the slide said ‘The End’?”
If you’re keeping track:
- Near-Riot #1: Five Minutes
- Near-Riot #2: Ten Minutes
- Near-Riot #3: Twenty Minutes
- Near-Riot #4: …..
I Hope There’s Not a Quiz
Haha! You didn’t think I’d give the answer away, did you? In case there’s a quiz at the end, I’m not going to just give you the answers!
Do you see the pattern? Do you feel like you’re back in 5th-grade math, taking a quiz, and it says:
“If Near-Riot #1 lasts for five minutes, Near-Riot #2 lasts for ten minutes and Near-Riot #3 lasts for 20 minutes, how long will Near-Riot #4 last?”
Since at the time of this writing, the election is over, and no one had to take a quiz, I’ll go ahead and give you the answer. If you chose “40 Minutes,” you’d be correct!
Near-Riot #4 broke out over absentee ballots, which by the way are now called “Vote by Mail.” Maybe “absentees” were insulted by the term “absentee” and felt bullied? Who knows? I think seriously about asking.
The Secret Key
I scribble down the dates of early voting, and we are assured that the places for early voting – all 20 of them! – are in our packets. Yes, that would be the packet I didn’t get, unless the brochures contain the “Secret Key to Early Voting Locations.”
Also, just so you know, absentee “Vote by Mail” ballots now have prepaid postage for anyone who has requested the ballot. (As opposed to what? Someone who just gets one in the mail anyway? Do they send absentee ballots to everyone, but only the people who asked for one get postage-paid return envelopes? I have no idea. I hope there’s not a quiz.).
In case you missed it, yes, we spend 40 (FORTY!) minutes on how Vote by Mail works, what disqualifies the ballot (I hope there’s not a quiz). And oh, look! Someone takes issue with one of the 293 ways an absentee “Vote by Mail” ballot can be disqualified!
Neighbors, Volunteers, Family and Friends
By the way, neighbors can bring the ballot in for others (as can volunteers). I’m not sure what the difference is between a neighbor and a volunteer – I mean, if a voter’s neighbor brings in the ballot, aren’t they volunteering, sort of? If not for you personally, they’re volunteering in general, right?
And oh! A paid campaign person staffer can bring the ballot too – not like I’ll ever have any of those, haha! I think there’s a pretty low limit on how many such a person can bring in – like, it might be ONE ballot. But this is unclear, and anyway I’ll never be able to pay anyone, so I shut off my brain in self-defense. Again.
Important question: Where TF do you get these ballots? It’s not in my packet. I hope there’s not a quiz.
2, 5 and 14
The ballot should be mailed no later than 14 days (I think, but then she said five days, dear God) prior to the election.
A candidate can bring in two ballots.
WARNING! Candidates cannot touch these ballots! That they collect? What??? How can you collect them if you don’t touch them? Do you have to wear gloves? And what is the relationship among two, five, and 14??? I think that five and 14 are days and two is “the number of ballots a candidate can collect and bring in, as long as the candidate hasn’t touched them.” I hope there’s not a quiz.
The [paid, so I don’t have to worry about this] campaign staff must sign a log for every ballot they bring in. Who keeps this log? Does it get submitted? Is there a format? Oh! Maybe it’s in the packet that I didn’t get!
What about families of the candidates?
Response: BAM. We have an answer.
[I think two people actually said “BAM”. Or I just wrote it down to amuse myself. I’m not sure. And – again – the answer to “what families can do” is unclear.]
Here come the instructions about secrecy: we’re to tell voters not to give their ballot to anyone they don’t know. At the risk of sounding unkind, should our democracy’s future rest in the hands of people who would just turn their ballot over to a complete stranger? I mean, did the stranger have candy?
Finally, we get to the recount procedure. Except that there is now so much noise in the room with people shuffling around, heading for the door (trying to steal someone else’s packet on the way out?) that the instructions are impossible to hear. As I’m rereading this on November 9, 2018, all I can think is, Oh, the irony!
[If you’re new to Coach Dawne, you can learn more about me on – you guessed it! – the “About Coach Dawne” page.]