In 1976, at age 23, I volunteered to be a poll worker in the November election. At the time, I had not yet entered law school and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I figured that working at the polls would be a good educational experience, and I think I got paid. As it turned out, I had a blast. And for some reason, I never did it again.
This year, however, I have again volunteered to be a poll worker in the August and November elections, and I am excited about it – even though I know it means that I will have to get up at Zero-Dark-Thirty, which is not (nor has it ever been) my forte. It’s my small contribution to political activism, the type of activism that has been visible lately regarding the questions surrounding Hannah Fizer’s killing.
I was alarmed when I read that the County Commission was unaware the body/dash cams they had presumably authorized through the budget process a few years ago were ineffective and had not been used. Obviously, it is bad that the cameras were inoperable, but that the Commission was unaware of that fact should make us all ask one question: Why did they not know?
Body/dash cams are valuable in that they protect law enforcement from frivolous claims. They are evidence regarding a questioned encounter, and they also are evidence in those rare cases when an officer does not follow policy. It simply makes sense that if we have the capacity to see evidence of what happened, we should do so. Had they known, I’m sure the Commissioners would have found the funds to correct the problem – as they are now doing.
As all these events have converged, political activism that has produced results. People have been protesting the actions of the sheriff’s department, the information about the body/dash cams has been revealed, the County Commission is working to correct that problem, and a person is now entering the race for Pettis County Sheriff as an Independent candidate.
Elections are important. They give the people an opportunity to approve of the incumbent’s actions and administration, or a chance to reject an administration and offer someone else the opportunity to do better. I was a part of that process for 22 years, and while I was grateful in the years I was unopposed, knowing that my actions were being observed by the people who elected me in the first place made me want to do the best job I could.
Though I am no longer a candidate, I believe everyone who can vote should vote. Think of elections as your opportunity for political activism.
This year, of course, voting is going to be difficult because of COVID-19. In Pettis County, we don’t have many of the problems that other counties or other states have. Nick La Strada, the Pettis County Clerk, has done a fabulous job as the elections “manager” during his tenure, but some of the problems that will arise this particular year are out of his control. To our benefit, we have several voting options this year:
• We can show up on election day with voter registration cards or other acceptable ID;
• We can vote absentee IF we offer one of seven “excuses” for being unavailable on election day. IF your excuse is that you have or are quarantining for COVID-19, OR if you have another illness, your ballot will not have to be notarized. Otherwise, your ballot will have to be notarized; and finally
• We can request a mail-in ballot. You can call Nick’s office for instructions, or you can read the instructions and request a ballot at https://bit.ly/3g74X5H. Most mail-in ballots will have to be notarized.
Right now, a lawsuit is asking that the notarization requirement be discarded; however, if you want to vote absentee or by mail immediately, I will notarize your ballot for you at no charge and will do so for the general election as well.
Remember this: absentee voting for the August primary has already started. Don’t dawdle. This is an important election, and everyone who can vote should do so.
Get active. Now.