I worked 6AM to 10PM yesterday as an assistant head election judge on two hours of sleep because excitement kept me up.
Today feels a lot like the day after walking a marathon, except with more to think about. I’ve been doing this since I first could and return because I love the iterative design and the processes of Minneapolis’ system and I’ve seen how well-intentioned but biased election judges perpetuate race/class-based disenfranchisement.
I’ve never missed voting in an election because I’ve been an EJ since before I could vote, but I’ve also rarely (never) had the chance to elect candidates who looked like me or my family and only recently have I seen candidates who share my values.
I’ve seen voters harassed and targeted for the color of their skin and singled out because of their class or housing status. Every election, I hear EJs who publicly declare voting to be a reflection of moral superiority, I hear privileged neighbors who can’t fathom those of us who don’t vote or submit a blank ballot or fill it with write-ins or who leave the polling place feeling less a part of our communities than when we entered.
When Gore conceded before the votes were counted, I saw the system’s brokenness. Marginalized voters who waited in line for hours under targeted disenfranchisement were swept away by an etiquette of respectability politics that treated their votes as owed, not earned, belonging to the powerful who got them, not the people who sweat and stood and suffered and didn’t give up to cast them.
I’m an election judge because I don’t know if I would vote otherwise. The hope I hold in our system is in its beautiful process, precarious and fragile and as weak as its most biased election judge.
I won’t tell people their votes don’t matter, because they do, but I won’t tell people they’re stupid or bad or wrong for not voting, because it’s a logical response to brutal multi-generational disenfranchisement and a system whose gravity consolidates power rather than sharing it, let alone ceding it.
If you voted, thank you. If you didn’t, I understand. If you couldn’t, I’ll fight for your right to the franchise. ❤️✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻🔴