I was determined to help out and do something active on Election Day – either drive people to the polls or knock on doors and remind people to vote. In an email from the local representative of Moms Demand Action, a group advocating for common sense gun laws, it was noted that Pete Harckham, running for New York State Senate, received an F rating from the NRA (National Rifle Association) and his opponent received an A rating. I promptly checked out Pete's views on the issues of his voting area, which is across the county from where I live, and realized that if he were running in my area I would be voting for him, so I signed up to canvas for him on Election Day.
But first, Fred and I walked up to our polling place to vote at 7 in the morning, delighted by the heavy turnout. Then off I went to school for first and second period classes, my only classes of the day. After an early lunch I headed north to Sleepy Hollow, smiling because this district encompasses Phelps Memorial Hospital where our grandson was born in 2015.
I was not completely clear about where to report, first being asked to stop by one person's home to pick up materials and then being confirmed for working at Philipsburg Manor, so I went to the home first. It turns out that canvassing was no longer necessary but I was welcome to go to the polling location at the Manor and hold a placard. Eager to do something, I took the placard and headed off to the Manor, relieved at being told there was an awning to stand under because it was pouring rain.
I knew that legally no placard holding could take place within 100 feet of a polling place, and had been told the awning area was okay. However, the first voter to see me immediately questioned if I was allowed to be where I was. Not wanting to accidentally be too close to the polls, I followed her inside and asked the poll watcher, who kindly came back out in the rain and explained that the edge of the awning by the parking lot was off limits but just beyond the awning was okay. He suggested I stand under the awning and hold the placard just beyond it.
In order to take the picture I set up my camera under the awning, stepped out into the parking lot and turned to face the polling building, which was the museum shop for the Manor. Otherwise, I was standing under the awning facing out towards the lot.
My message to voters was "Thank you for coming out to vote on this rainy day." About 10 minutes later a man heading in to vote said, rather gruffly, he did not approve of what I was doing and I should not be there. This surprised me a little and I was eager to speak with him after he voted. I asked if he would please explain his sentiments, and we proceeded to have a brief conversation. He thought Pete was a very nice person and wanted to know if I was holding the sign of my own accord or had been asked to do so. I explained that a representative of Pete's campaign committee had asked me to hold the sign. He then went on to say that he didn't think people should do electioneering at a polling place, that voting was a very private process and voters should not be subjected to advertising at the polls, and then off he went. Standing in the rain isn't the best environment for a conversation!
His comments did get me thinking back to my experiences voting. I did not have a firm opinion on seeing people campaigning at the polls but do have a recollection of having a conversation about that years ago (and do not recall what my opinion was back then!)
Soon after another gentleman stopped by looking for Kykuit. I directed him into the polling building, which also houses the ticketing office for Kykuit, and on his way out he stopped to say that he completely admired what I was doing. That was a pleasant and interesting change from the previous two conversations! Turns out he is British, recently retired from 32 years as a Barrister in London, and had returned to New York to visit those locations he had missed years ago when he lived here for awhile. His adventure would take him to upstate as well as Vermont. We chatted a bit and he went on to explain British traditions around elections, saying that placards and such were part of their process.
Before heading home I took a photo of the No Electioneering Beyond This Point sign, something I had not initially seen because in the rain and wind the sign had wrapped around itself.
The last time I worked on Election Day was in 2008 when, along with three other friends, we drove to Pennsylvania and spent the day canvassing there to remind people to get out and vote. That day felt momentous. Fred and I have already decided that for Election Day 2020 we will sign up to work the polls in the morning, and then I will contact a local group to see about driving people to the polls.