As I was worked the polls at the fire hall in Little Washington last Tuesday as an election official, I had a front row, all-day seat to the most shameless and embarrassing display of desperate, last-minute campaigning, mostly by our write-in candidates, that I have ever seen in more than 40 years of voting experience.
It started when the polls opened at 6 a.m. and didn’t stop until the polls closed at 7 p.m. As voters arrived, they were immediately confronted by these aggressive, in-your-face candidates, who often followed the poor souls to the door of the polling place while shoving vast amounts of paper, pencils and business cards at them. My 82-year-old mother, who had recently moved to Rappahannock, could not get into the parking lot nearby because of all the people milling about and instead had to park a distance away from the building. The noise was so loud she thought there was a festival or special event going on. and was so rattled that by the time she had pushed her way through the mob she couldn’t remember her new address.
Things got so unruly that members of the county electoral board were called in to babysit the candidates and to prevent them from blocking the parking area or from crossing the 40-foot mark at the entrance of the voting area. As soon as they left, things deteriorated again as it was back to bedlam. Some voters were accosted before they could even get out of their cars, and others — my husband, for one — were cross-examined as they left the fire hall as to how they voted. The chief election official even had to go out to instruct them to “cool it” several times during the day, and the last time he was literally growled at by one of the candidates. Pit bulls have better manners. Rappahannock isn’t Chicago, although you’d never know it from the behavior exhibited last Tuesday.
But not all of this was without humor. As the reams of paper passed out ran low at the end of the day, and the garbage bins inside were overflowing, at least one candidate was forced to send a helper inside, dig through the trash and recycle enough paper for the evening’s voters.
The saving grace and the lesson learned? Despite all of the frantic last-minute campaigning, none of the desperados won. None came even close. Let’s hope they stay home the next time around.