April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Always looking for new and different ways to meet people, on Tuesday I had the honorable experience of being a poll worker for the Bergenfield Board of Elections.

What fun it was to arrive at 5:15 in the morning (really 5 is requested), groggily dragging myself through the door to find out that I was the last arrival. While only my hairdresser or my sheitel macher will ever know what color really exists on my head, there was no issue determining the hair color of my fellow board workers. White is definitely in, and I noticed that I brought down the average age at this important job by about 20 years. A lovely lady in our group was lamenting the fact that her 50-year-old Maytag washing machine had just died, just to give you an idea of what I am talking about.

Our group was comprised of four women and two gentlemen. Rarely have I been in the company of people as dedicated as these individuals, who have been doing this together for years. The machines used for people to cast their ballots, and the entire process in general, has got to be at least 100 years older than the combined ages of the lovely people in my group. By the way, the poll workers are the ones who erect the booths, attach them to the machinery, put up all the signs (which were multilingual) and do all the nitty-gritty to get the show on the road. Oh my gosh, there has got to be a better way! I used to think that Canada was antiquated—until I saw the needle and piece of wool that each voter’s receipt of ballot was attached to. It really is a good thing my mother at least taught me how to sew a few stitches.

Something awful happened in the first hours of the morning. My cell phone rang! Whoops—no cell phones allowed. Not in the room, not anywhere nearby. It was exciting to find out that I had one hour for lunch. My hour took place at 11 in the morning, which made sense since I had been up since 4:30. A supper break is also allocated to each worker. That break is for only a half hour, and one is not allowed to leave the building during that time. It was refreshing to be in the Bergenfield City Hall and count the numbers of cracks on the wall and, in actual fact, it was refreshing to walk around and see the many wonderful activities and services that the City of Bergenfield offers to its inhabitants. Secretly I hid in another room and checked my emails and texts, and even called my dear hubby. At the end of the day I dared to get up to begin removing the directional, translation, etc. signs from the walls. It was 7:55, with five minutes to go. Whoops—bad mistake. One must wait until the dot of 8 to even have such thoughts! Law abiding is an understatement for this group!

As the flow of voters was not constant, the lovely group of people I worked with taught me much about the community we live in. I learned that there was once a cow barn on Newbridge Road in the place where they finally demolished the disgusting building belonging to a lawn mower repair shop. I heard about the many parts of Bergenfield that I never knew existed, and learned of hardware stores that are customer friendly and anxious to please, other fruit and vegetable markets, and a sadness among my newfound friends about the demise of Acme. I had a difficult time with that one, since the Acme prices were always so much higher than everywhere else.

I learned about the voting system here, where every “i” needs to be perfectly dotted. These guys do not play around. There is no room for any mistakes with anything. I tried to imagine our community adhering to some of these rules, and just could not see how they would be enforced. No one in the room seemed to know better than the rule. It was quite impressive.

The patriotism of my fellow workers was also extremely impressive. I attended a class for prospective workers several weeks ago, and before it began everyone was asked to stand for the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Each person stood, placed their hands over their hearts and proudly recited the pledge. I was excited, once again, to be an American and participate with the group. We never experienced such patriotism in Canada.

It was heartwarming to help several people vote for the first time. They were, indeed, excited, and announced to us all that it was their very first time. It was charming to see adult sons and daughters bring their elderly parents to the polling station. Many needed assistance, and their children were there to ensure that they continue to maintain their ability to vote as they had for decades for as long as they can. It was fun to see parents bring their young children into the voting booth and allow them to “push” the button once they had made their selections. Educating them at such a young age definitely teaches the importance of having the opportunity to vote in a country that is free and open to all.

I wondered how many people voting had a clue of who they were voting for other than the gubernatorial candidates. I kept thinking what a difference it would make if people really knew who these people were. I know that we certainly had no clue of who the various candidates were, and certainly had no knowledge of the school board candidates. “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” should not be the way to make a choice, and whether a candidate is a Democrat or Republican should not determine who to vote for. Shouldn’t it have much more to do with the person’s qualifications and concerns for the community? Where and who were these candidates? We cannot be different from so many others. There has to be a better system to educate the public, especially if they want people to vote for them.

It is unfortunate and terribly sad that in our district only 33 percent of registered voters actually voted. How pathetic is that? A suggestion was made that they should encourage people to vote by reducing the taxes for those who make the effort to vote. Here we are living in the greatest democracy in the world, and the apathy that is shown on Election Day is disappointing, to say the least. Certainly, anyone who chooses not to vote should be the least critical of any of the policies and decisions that are made in their district and state. I can’t imagine that is the case.

Exhausted as I am as I write this after having spent so many hours “working the polls,” I feel proud as an American to see a system and a country that includes so many different people from such varied walks of life. I met true patriots who show their belief in this country by fulfilling what they feel is a civic responsibility. There we sat today, all of us from very different backgrounds, yet we blended so well—which reminded me of the fabric of America. With all of the system’s quirks and—what to me were—ridiculous rules (in some cases), I was sincerely proud to be a part of it. It felt good to contribute a very little something to a country that has welcomed so many to its soil and still stands for true freedom.

By Nina Glick

 Nina Glick lives in Bergenfield after many years of service to the Montreal Jewish community. Nina coordinated all Yachad activities in Montreal and was a co/founder of Maison Shalom, a group home for special needs young adults. She can be reached at [email protected].

 

 

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