This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 11, 1992

November 11, 1992 - voting and the library

I realize that this is a subject most Americans are utterly sick of -- Election Day, 1992. But it happens that on November 3, I was an Election Supply Judge, one of the people that works behind the scenes in the complex machinery of the democratic process.

The county had a lot of trouble this year finding enough judges to cover all the stations. That's a shame. In my past two years as an election judge, I have picked up some fascinating tidbits of county history.

The experienced core of the county's judges have lived here for years, sometimes generations. They know where all the bodies are buried, and have a great time talking about it. I've had a great time listening.

Election judges even get paid -- about $70 for the day.

But what's it really like? Well, according to my notes, it's like this:

4:45 a.m. - Wake up, check alarm clock. Have moment of panic, thinking that I must have set it wrong.

4:46 a.m. - Check second alarm clock, convinced that I goofed that one, too.

4:47-5:45 - Remove cat from bladder (third alarm), get up, feed cat, make coffee, take shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, make lunch and dinner snack, pack car.

6:00 a.m. - arrive at Perry Park Fire Station, the polling place. Wait for someone to open up.

6:10-7 a.m. - unload equipment, greet other judges, set up tables, equipment, signs, polling stations. Administer oaths, vote first booth, discover that it is completely unworkable, take it down, announce that polls are open. We're one booth short for what is predicted to be the biggest voter turnout in decades.

7-10:30 a.m. - frantic activity. 45 minute wait for most voters. Without being asked, people form two lines, one for each booth. Some use the occasion to study up on the sample ballot, or peruse blue ballot analysis by the Colorado Legislative Committee. Others -- the ones without "cheat sheets" cut out from newspapers or scrawled on the back of brochures -- spend up to 10 minutes working through the choices. But no one seems impatient.

10:30-11:30 - Room begins to clear out. I eat four cookies, brought by one of the other judges.

11:30 a.m. - first real break in day. Have a chance to talk with fellow judges for a little bit. Of the five of us, only one other has served as a judge before. The other three settle down to business like pros. No mistakes, everything very smooth. Trickles of voters now, but the long ballot and one missing booth stretches out the time. Am amazed how fast the day is going. Some of us grab a bite to eat.

2 p.m. - Actually quiet. Slowest time of the day. People walk in, step right up to the booth.

2:30-7:30 p.m. - Picks up, but never really gets busy again. Announce the closing of the polls. Break down equipment, count the votes. Everything adds up exactly right the first time through. Final tally: over 85 percent of the registered voters actually voted, about 30% more than usual. Thank the other judges -- a topnotch effort by some smart, funny, interesting people, one of them a near neighbor I had never had a chance to talk to before.

7:30-9 p.m. - in the company of two other judges, drive in to Castle Rock, drop off the booths and equipment. Then drop off the judges, go home to watch the returns. In bed by midnight.

For the past couple of weeks, you've read or listened to the opinions of countless experts about the lessons of Election Day, 1992. I'm not an expert.

But it strikes me that there are striking similarities between an election and a library.

Both elections and libraries are about choices. People have a lot of different opinions, and everybody is entitled to their say.

Some people vote smarter than others. I was frankly surprised by how many voters had obviously never seen or heard of many of the issues on the ballot.

I have a lot of respect for people's opinions, and enormous respect for democracy. But I find that I have a lot more respect for those people who actually take the time to do some research, even if they wind up disagreeing with each other.

Given the results of one of the votes -- the passage of Douglas Bruce's tax limitation amendment -- I suspect we'll all be voting more often, and on more issues, than we have in the past. I hope that more of you will not only make better use of your library to bone up on the things you'll be deciding, but also that you'll consider putting in some time as an election judge.

It's an education, it's fun, and sometimes, the cookies are incredible.

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