I’ve never missed a vote in my entire life. I happily walked in to my polling precinct yesterday in my screamingly bright Corvette jacket. Without a mask, I daresay.
Other than myself there were 8 poll workers present. And a solitary voter behind one of the curtained booths.
At the first desk a woman asked me, “Do you have a mask?” I always have one in my purse. “Yes,” I answered. She directed me to put it on. Full well knowing the law in my state as well as the election law specifically relating to this, I asked her, “Is it legally mandated or is it just a suggestion?”
Flustered and stammering something, she glanced in fear at the precinct’s chief elections judge for directions. The latter, who had been fixing me with a hostile stare since I walked in, arose from her throne to make a pronouncement.
CEJ: “You need to put your mask on.”
ME: “Is that legally mandated?”
CEJ: “You can go outside.”
ME: “You didn’t answer my question. Is it legally mandated?”
CEJ (defiantly): “I did answer your question. I told you to go outside.”
Knowing that the election law explicitly stated that if anyone “hinders or delays” a voter, the criminal penalty is “up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500.00 fine” and knowing that she knows the very same facts, I made no response. Instead I walked to the first station: the voter registration verification desk which was manned by 4 seated women.
I was not intimidated.
Continuing to skewer me with her hostile look, the precinct judge quickly walked over to stand behind the first woman I was waiting in front of. Her majesty bent over and whispered to the woman not to serve me. The poll worker, her face alternating between twitches of timidity toward the judge and hostility toward me, complied. She cupped her hands and shoved the paperwork on the table to her midsection, protecting it with her hands.
I stepped over to the colleague beside her. I recited my address, as requested, and offered my military i.d. along with my driver’s license as proof. Smiling, she courteously validated my eligibility to vote and told me that the woman at the next station would give me my ballot.
The ballot station poll worker refused to give me a ballot, all the while looking at the glowering chief elections judge, apparently seeking instructions on what to do. The hostile judge reiterated the command that she was not to give me my ballot. She then addressed me.
CEJ: “You can go outside to vote.”
ME: “I will not. It is not legally mandated for me to wear a mask.”
Then I looked the ballot distribution woman in the eyes. I quietly and slowly said, “Give me my ballot.” Again she fearfully looked to the chief elections judge. After a few seconds the precinct judge nodded in assent.
I went to the voting booth, filled out my ballot and inserted it in the ballot machine. The gentleman in attendance asked me if I would like an “I voted” sticker. “Yes, please,” I smiled and vigorously nodded in assent. “Thank you very much!”.
I proudly pasted the sticker on my sweater. I’ve loved receiving stickers ever since first grade. Gold stars, animals, whatever, I love them all. It’s just something I never grew out of. And probably never will. The solitary voter had left. I was alone with the poll workers.
The room was silent.
The chief elections judge was standing behind and above the registration verification desk. I stopped. I addressed her but projected my voice to ensure all present would hear.
ME: You are a public official and as such are required to publicly state your name. What are your first and last names?
CEJ: Audrey Price.
ME: And what is your official title?
CEJ: (Not answering and rudely oblivious to the possibility that anyone she talks to from a distance might be near-sighted, she flashes her i.d. badge at me from several feet away.)
ME: Ah. Chief Elections Judge. I’ve been Chief Elections Judge at another precinct. You demanded that I wear a mask. It happens that I am a medical researcher with 3 university degrees. And your medical education is…?
AUDREY PRICE: (Throwing up her hands) Ma’am. I don’t even have a high school education.
ME: It shows.
The room was silent except for a muffled gasp coming from somewhere on my left: “Oh!”
I turned on my heel and sauntered slowly, deliberately out of the polling precinct. Tom Petty’s song lyrics suddenly flashed into my head:
Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down!