I admit it. I was originally a Hillary supporter. One of the factors in my decision to support Hillary Clinton in the primaries was whether I thought that Americans were ready for an African American president. While I thought that America, in general, probably was ready, I had serious doubts about the electoral votes from Southern states and other potentially racist communities blocking Obama from the opportunity to be President. It seems that I was wrong and right. Obama became President and racism is still ugly.
When Obama got the nomination, I went to Kennett to campaign because Obama didn’t even open a campaign office in Arkansas until after the Democratic convention. If you signed up to volunteer as an Arkansan, the Obama campaign sent you to Missouri. That’s how I got there. Missouri was considered a battleground state and Arkansas, with its six electoral votes, was not. The Obama campaign was correct in this estimation.
I, as a lawyer, also signed up to be a poll watcher. I have been a poll watcher for quite a few elections and it’s fun. It’s also fascinating to watch all these people coming into the polls to vote. I said I was available to send to Missouri and so I was selected to go to Sikeston, Missouri.
Sikeston, Missouri is a town of about 12,000 in the south east corner of Missouri. It’s known for being the home of the original Lambert’s Cafe (a famous restaurant known for throwing its rolls) and the last lynching of an African American in Missouri.
I was trained and got a really cool t-shirt.
See I told you it was cool. I was told to be at the polls at 5:30. The polls were to open at 6:00 a.m. The polls closed at at 6 or 7. Is it wrong that I don’t even remember right now? Then again I was sitting out in the sun for a long, long time. Since I wasn’t registered to vote in Missouri and Missouri law requires you to be registered in the county in which you watch the polls, I was considered a “monitor” as opposed to a poll watcher. I watched the craziness that occurred outside the polls. If there was I line, I was the one to monitor the line and make sure people weren’t harassing voters in the parking lots. If there was problems, I was to call a group of attorneys located somewhere unknown to me (they didn’t even tell it at training) called the “boiler room.” My polling location was at a firestation.
I get there and was greeted by a campaign volunteer named Genesis. Genesis is the first book in the Christian Bible. (as well as the Jewish Bible since they like the Old Testament). Also, the word genesis means “The coming into being of something; the origin”
This particular polling location wasn’t one that would have long lines although there was a steady stream of people that came in and out all day. Around 10:00, a police officer came out and said that he was closing half of the parking lot for a training exercise. They became putting up police barricades and rolled out a fire truck. They managed to block one entrance to the parking lot entirely and blocked another one partially. The sidewalk was now harder to reach and some people would be forced to walk around the building. Parking on the street was not possible in this part of town.
Other facts that put this into perspective.
- There are at least two other fire stations in this town
- The police and the African American community have a tense relationship
- This polling place was the place for the “black part” of town
- Until this year or “before Obama,” the polling place for this precinct was at a church more centrally located for the area.
So yeah this was some weird crap. I called the boiler room. The pollwatcher from inside the polling place came outside and called the boiler room. A sheriff’s deputy who was stumping for the current sheriff called the Sheriff. Something was rotten in the state of Missouri and we were looking at it.
The then County clerk came. She came quickly. She must have already been in town.
There was yelling. She opened the can of whoop ass and the training exercise was over. The whole incident from start to finish was thirty minutes.