ELECTION DAY – THE WAY WE WERE

GUEST OP-ED
By Tara Fries

My Mother worked the polls on Election Days for the Board of Elections for fifty years…starting in Bayridge Brooklyn, then out to Lindenhurst. She would say it was her Christmas money.

I grew up around those machines, with the handle to draw the curtain open and close, those giant black books, that we had to go to Babylon Town Hall to pick up. They weighed a ton, and smelled like musty paper.

My mother took that job very seriously, she was such a force. No one was getting away with anything with Loretta O’Brien on the job, daughter of Irish immigrants, born in 1924, a member of the greatest generation. I am proud to be raised by parents from that generation; I am the last year of the Baby Boomers, 1964. 

At the end of the night, the side panel of those big machines was opened with my Mother, the Democrat and another poll worker, a Republican present to count…along with both Democrat and Republican Assemblymen standing close by, but not too close.

I remember my Mother yelling at one guy to step back, when he had gotten too close to the machine. She would call out the numbers, to be confirmed by the Republican standing beside her. I always enjoyed watching the entire process…in my young eyes, I thought it was a big deal… and it was!

Then the Suffolk County Police Officer came in and escorted my Mother back to Town Hall with the results, and with those precious giant black books. The entire day from early in the morning until late at night, those four woman sat at their table, two Democrats and two Republicans.

They’d bring their day’s meals, thermos and fruit packed in lunch bags. All dressed professional, like they were working on the floor of a bank. Only leaving to use the restroom, or for a brief walk to stretch their legs…but always checking to make sure that the timing was appropriate, and that their fellow party representative was extra vigilant while they were away. 

I watched the videos of poll workers counting today, in massive rooms, and losing flash drives! They looked like they just rolled out of bed, and am horrified. Is this our new America? How far we have declined…Sad. 

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Tara Fries is a concerned citizen from Jupiter, Florida. Formerly of Bayport, she has been married for 33 years and is the proud mother of three young adult children. Before starting her family, Tara worked as an account manager for Commercial Finance Banking Corporations. 

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