Patriotism vs. Bribery: My experience at the 2014 midterm polls

Earlier this year, I was recruited by the Maryland GOP to be a volunteer and early-voter poll-watcher for the Hogan campaign.  As a civic-minded individual, I was happy to have the chance to help guarantee voter integrity in what turned out to be a very exciting election.

Throughout my life, I have thought a strong democratic republic should have checks and balances, which is why I volunteered this year.  However, my experience showed that others consider the process little more than an exercise in free cash – and, even worse, some clearly consider it an opportunity to corrupt the democratic process.

My assignment in late October was to help with voter integrity for six days at a retirement activity center behind the Prince George's County hospital.  With all my certificates and my clipboard in hand, I went to the center just prior to the start of early voting, to record the Diebold machines' starting vote totals and the serial numbers for that day.  There were 20 voting machines on my assignment, which needed to be read one at a time. 

The problems started as soon as I entered the building.  Here was my first exchange on-site with an official who was the Democratic head judge:

Me: "Hi, I'm a Republican poll-watcher representing the Hogan campaign, and I'm here to get starting vote totals from your machines."

Her: "Sorry, but you can't do that.  You need to look over the tapes we have hung outside the building."  [She pointed me to 20 six-foot-long, three-inch-wide paper tapes blowing in the wind outside the front door.]

Me: "Ma’am, if I went into the IT firm where I work, and audited a customer site based upon tapes they 'claimed' were from the machines I need to see – right over there [I pointed at her Diebolds] – rather than the actual devices, they'd fire me just for stupidity."

She left in a huff and spoke to the other judges.  Only after I and another GOP volunteer showed our legal forms from training were we allowed to proceed as planned.

The very last day of early voting at that same location was very different for a Democratic poll-watcher who joined us at the center.  A different democratic judge was there that night (for the record, this judge was a great help to us). 

A young guy in a t-shirt and shoes with no socks came in, claiming to be there representing "his boss," Jim Rosapepe.  For those who are unaware, Rosapepe was an unopposed Democrat in ultra-left-wing PG County.  My immediate reaction was skepticism – why is an unopposed Democrat checking the poll counts?

The young man's request was oddly scattered.  The judge asked to see his credentials from the campaign, which he didn't have.  Neither did he have a clipboard to record the counts he sought.  Instead, he offered to pull the documents up for the judge on his phone.  However, since phones are not allowed in the center, the judge walked outside the building to verify his credentials.

After she left, I briefly spoke to the poll-watcher.  Here was our very enlightening exchange:

Me: "So you're here to get numbers for an unopposed Democrat at a very Democratic-friendly PG County polling place?"

Him: "That's what my boss wants, and for me to retrieve the campaign signs."

Me: "Where's your clipboard?"

Him: "That's kinda secondary.  I need to get these signs."

Me: "Why?  The polls haven't closed yet."

Him: "I just want to get this done and get back home.  I could be back home playing videogames in my underwear right now."

Me: "You're voting for a Democrat in Maryland?  Do you think this state needs more Democrats in office?  Do you even live in this state?"

Him: "They're doing all right by me."

It was at this point the young man wandered outside and spoke to a Democratic campaign worker in front of the center whom he knew, who was passing out handbills.  There was a support truck there with other Rosapepe staff to help them.  I just had to ask the judge to unravel this highly unprofessional mystery for me. She filled me in:

"Oh, that guy?  David, those guys are paid...around $200, I've heard," she whispered. 

Perhaps naively, I was shocked.  All of us Republican poll-watchers were volunteers, doing our patriotic duty to help with voter integrity – and this young man was essentially being bribed to make sure the polls were "fair."

As a Catholic, I often see similarities to the modern world in the Holy Bible.  In this case, I was startled to see the comparison between the Maryland Democrats and the rabble-rousers the Pharisees hired to denigrate Christ at his public trial before Pontius Pilate. 

Apparently, a little money will buy votes, no matter whom they are paid to support, or crucify.

David Flynn is a cyber-security architect for several federal agencies who lives in Prince George's County, Maryland.  He is a Catholic author of two science fiction books, with one more on the way.  All three publications can be found on his website.

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