By Gianni Risper
November 4, 2008 will be a day that the nation and the world will remember forever. All of those who voted got to say they made history by voting in the nation’s most controversial election. But what most people won’t be able to say is that they worked the polls. Most voters can’t say that they were a part of the process to help get the President into the White House, like many of the people who worked the polls to make sure that the process went as smoothly as possible.
I woke up on the morning of the election and was dressed and at Grand River School’s polling station for Ward 1 Precinct 3 by 6:00 a.m. As early as 7 a.m., people started to line up to exercise their right to vote. Along with a team of 9 other poll inspectors, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., I worked almost non-stop helping over 1,000 people take part in the 2008 election process.
I gave out voter applications, counted ballots, dealt with voting questions, and had a great time talking with Eric Hewitt, City Council member for Ward 1. My day was filled with long lines of people, repetitive tasks and sore joints. But what a lot of people don’t know is what happens after the polls close. Even if there is one miscounted ballot, all the ballots have to be recounted to ensure no vote is uncounted or over-counted. So this meant instead of my day ending at 8:00 p.m. as promised, we all had to stay and re-feed all of the ballots before we could leave, or as Council Member Hewitt put it, "expedite", which has become my new favorite word.
So when the glorious hour came when I was to leave the school and go home, all I wanted to do was go and watch the election coverage. Instead of going strait home to rest my feet, (I had been standing for at least 6 hours), my mom and I went to UAW 652, where local Democrats gathered to watch all election results. I was greeted with the sight that made my whole day worth it. On the big projector was CNN, which is a television news media outlet, showing that Barack Obama was ahead by at least 100 electoral votes and the possibility of a pro-Obama, filibuster proof, Democratic super-majority in the Senate.
As I drifted home, I hastily sat on my couch, kicked of my shoes and flipped to CNN just in time to see both John McCain’s concession speech, which was one of the most gracious bow outs I’ve ever seen, and the speech that will be remembered by millions to come, Barack Obama’s acceptance of the Presidency of the United States. It was a glorious day and I’ll always look back and be able to say I was part of the process that not only was a historic voting day in terms of numbers but one in terms of putting Barack Obama in the White House.
I was a part of the part of the process that also saw the unseating of sitting Republican Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor, when Democrat Dianne Hathaway beat him. What is significant is that he used to run the court as Chief Justice and he was the first sitting judge to be ousted from that seat since Michigan became a state in 1837.
I saw the election of the first female Muslim to the Michigan House of Representatives, Rashida Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. Her boss, Representative Steve Tobocman, who is stepping down because of term limits, is Jewish. What makes it even more of an American story is that her district is largely black and Hispanic. She is one of 28 women in Michigan’s 95th Legislature 6 are Republican. The Republicans in the House gained 2 black representatives and the Democrats will gain 1, which will bring the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus to 24 members in 2009. Yes, it has been a historic voting year.
I would like to thank the City Clerk’s office, Chris Swope and Paula Simon for allowing me to be a part of this election and I encourage other young people to seek out this civil service job. I’m 16 years old and there were other young people there who were hired by the City Clerk’s office for the first time to promote civic engagement.
It’s well worth one day of your life. In closing, I’d like to say that in this precinct alone the number of voters more than doubled from the year before. This election brought out a lot of first time voters, young and old, and I encourage people to vote in every election. Your vote does count and I we should feel even more so that young people can aspire to be anything that they want to even with a name like Barack Hussein Obama.
Gianni Risper is a 16 year old student at Lansing Community College in Lansing, MI.