Daily news from Monterey County Weekly

ETC. Photo of the day by Topher Mueller. An opalescent nudibranch (hermissenda opalescens) meanders through some kelp near the Breakwater Marina in Monterey. Photographed with Olympus TG-6 f3.5, 1/200, ISO200, Fd-1 flash. Submit your best horizontal photos. (Please include the location where the photo was taken in the caption.)

Poll workers make elections go, and no, their jobs are not political.

Good afternoon.

Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about democracy—both philosophically and in its messy reality.

I thought I had a pretty sophisticated understanding of this system of governance when I chose to study political science in college, or when I spent myriad Washington, D.C. dinner parties discussing the ins and outs of life on Capitol Hill, the belly of the beast for American democracy.

But my academic (and social) experience had nothing on what I learned during 12 hours working at a polling place in November 2020. I’d never really considered how elections work at an on-the-ground level, and I was impressed by what I discovered.

For those who have yet to work an election, here’s how it goes: You sign up (I filled out a form online) and are assigned to a training session and polling place. At the training (mine took place over a couple of hours one fall evening in a conference room at the Monterey County Fairgrounds), you learn about the process, protocols and roles involved in running a polling place. You’re sent home with a large booklet and told to study up. And then, suddenly, it’s showtime.

On Election Day you get to the polling place early to set up tables and chairs and those little privacy shields with the American flag on the side. Together with your fellow poll workers you organize the flow of the room, and decide who will do which job. There’s a designated leader for the polling station (usually someone who has past experience working elections), but no one is a professional. Instead, you’re all taking time out of your regular lives (I worked with a trauma therapist, a wedding planner, etc.) to support this essential function of democracy. That in itself is democratic—I had the sense that we were all at once underqualified and the perfect people for the job.

When voters start to arrive, you guide them through the process, making sure to complete certain steps and offering answers to their questions (if you can). It’s essentially a customer service job at that point, except that instead of serving coffee or selling a new pair of shoes you’re offering…well, access to democracy itself.

Working at a polling place, in my experience, is not at all political—it’s mechanical. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt as patriotic as I did that day, working with a handful of my fellow citizens to help a bunch of others exercise their right (and, I would argue, duty) to vote.

I’m sharing my experience now because Californians are headed back to the polls on Tuesday, Sept. 14 for an important gubernatorial recall election. I’d like to encourage you, if you haven’t already, to take the time to vote. There are more ways to do so than ever—because of the pandemic, all registered California voters received a mail-in ballot. If you need more information about how and where to vote in Monterey County, we have a guide. The Weekly’s editorial board also has an endorsement. The Monterey County Elections Department has already received over 74,000 ballots, and counting.

Of course you can still go to your local polling place in person on Tuesday should you desire—just remember to bring that mail-in ballot with you. And be nice to your poll workers; they’re doing their best.

-Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, associate editor, tajha@mcweekly.com

BY THE NUMBERS

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 had a marked impact on how many Americans felt about government and patriotism. This graph, based on polling done by the Pew Research Center, shows how trust in government spiked after 9/11 (before falling off—way off—again).

LATEST LOCAL NEWS

Some Monterey County growers are risking a fragile resource to survive the drought. Since Aug. 1, these growers have turned to their last resort: drawing water from their increasingly fragile groundwater wells.

Canada to end onerous post-harvest testing requirements for Central Coast romaine lettuce imports. Local romaine lettuce growers scored a big victory Thursday, Sept. 9, as U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, announced that the onerous testing protocols Canada implemented last year will no longer be in place.

Gerry Low-Sabado, who spoke up for her Chinese ancestors of the Monterey Peninsula, dies at 71. In her last post to friends, Low-Sabado gave them a charge to continue the work that she began. “I have cherished your allyship, friendship and support you have given me throughout the years and I want you all to continue to ‘make good trouble’ and strive for ‘Change with Kindness.’”

Police officers find a loaded gun at Washington Middle School in Salinas. The K-9 unit from Salinas PD was doing a routine search when the dog sniffed out a firearm in one of the backpacks. The officers searched it and found a loaded gun.

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LOCAL INSPIRATION

LOCAL INSPIRATION of the day. “Curled Up,” by Monterey-born painter Zoya Scholis. This piece is currently on display at Nancy Dodds Gallery in Carmel. Submit your Local Inspiration (digital art, music, multimedia, video, etc.; please include the medium you’ve used, and note when and where it was created).

Remembering 9/11. Local cities commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with processions of police officers and firefighters and memorial ceremonies. Events happen from 8-9:30am Saturday, Sept. 11 in Seaside from 1635 Broadway to City Hall; 9am in Carmel at Devendorf Park; 10am in Salinas at Fire Station 1, 216 W. Alisal St.

Dad Reads is back in front of the Marina library. Enjoy it from 10-11am, Saturday, Sept. 11. 

The Moss Landing that could’ve been. In their book HumbledHow California’s Monterey Bay Escaped Industrial Ruin, Kathryn McKenzie and Glenn Church dig back into the local history of successfully taking on the company that is now ExxonMobil. They sign books from 2-3:30pm on Sunday, Sept. 12 at River House Books in Carmel.

BEST OF MONTEREY BAY® REAL ESTATE

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IN CONTEXT

What 9/11 did to one family. Bobby McIlvaine was 26 when he died. Twenty years later, his loved ones are still grieving, each in their own way.
-The Atlantic, Sept. 2021

Justice Department sues Texas over abortion ban. According to the lawsuit, the new Texas law is “in open defiance of the Constitution.”
-NPR, Sept. 9, 2021

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HELPFUL DISTRACTIONS

A brief history of Mariah Carey blaming Glitter's failure on 9/11. "Anything released the week of 9/11/2001 was not going to work," the pop star claimed. Jezebel says she was wrong.

An incomplete survey of fictional knitters. You are welcome.

We welcome your tips, comments and feedback. 

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