Its our turn for a change!
On Tuesday the nation witnessed something very few who follow American politics thought possible – Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown to fill their United States Senate seat made vacant by the passing of Edward Kennedy last year. This election is of national importance for two reasons. First, it is correctly viewed as the voters’ second referendum (after the New Jersey and Virginia governors elections late last year) on the Democrat’s domestic policies, including specifically their proposed health care reform. More importantly, though, Scott Brown campaigned as the "41st vote," and his election deprives Senate Democrats of their 60 vote filibuster proof majority.
Because of the significance of the election, and because the outcome of the election was uncertain, I felt privileged and fortunate to be in a position to assist when I received a request from Scott Brown’s legal team late last week to help observe Tuesday’s election and make sure it was properly conducted. I arrived in Boston late Monday afternoon.
I was immediately impressed by how coordinated and efficient his campaign was being run. It was clearly proactive, not reactive, and was effectively utilizing all the latest communication and social media technologies. Any Google search, for example, from an IP address within Boston displayed Scott Brown campaign messages, whereas an identical search from an IP address in Texas would not. Both major candidates utilized traditional channels as well, with every advertisement on the local networks alternating between the two.
Elections in Massachusetts are conducted much differently from elections in Texas. Massachusetts regulations did not allow early voting so all voters were required to vote Tuesday, either in person or by absentee ballot. Voters were not required to present any identification or voter registration, unless they were not on the list of registered voters, in which case they were allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Most voters obtained a ballot after stating just their name and residential address to the elections official who, after confirming the voter resided in the precinct, was required to audibly repeat the voter’s name and address.
Any observer could challenge a voter for cause, and audibly stating and repeating the voter’s name and address identified the voter to observers. Voters then made their selection and took their paper ballot to the other side of the room where an armed and uniformed police officer again asked the voter for their name and residential address, verified the voter’s name against a second copy of the list of registered voters, and only then allowed the voter to cast their vote by inserting their ballot into an electronic counting machine.
Active participation by a uniformed officer, particularly at the time when the vote is actually cast, more than offset my concerns of voter fraud created by the absence of voter identification documentation.
Another attorney, who traveled from Michigan, and I were assigned eight polling locations in southwest Boston and directed to visit each several times throughout the day to observe the election process. We were allowed to speak with the election Warden but not with voters unless they were leaving the polling location. Southwest Boston is a heavily democratic area. Without exception, every election official with whom I spoke clearly supported Scott Brown, and each was very careful not to say his name in the presence of any voter or create any cause to challenge the integrity of the process at their respective precinct; each fully understood the implications of events taking place that day. More than one election official told me Scott Brown was the first Republican candidate for whom they had ever voted.
Just prior to 7 p.m. EST we made our way back to the Park Plaza hotel in downtown Boston where news media trucks arrived throughout the day and obscured every entrance. We passed RNC Chairman Michael Steele and former New England Patriots and Boston College quarterback Doug Flute as we entered the ballroom to wait for election results. Shortly after 9 p.m. EST Scott Brown’s daughter Ayla Brown performed two numbers and then informed the crowd Martha Coakley had just conceded the election. We where in the third row as Scott Brown made his acceptance speech, and I then enjoyed the remainder of the evening with Boston locals celebrating a mood artfully expressed by the only sign that found its way into the ballroom – "It’s Our Turn for a Change!!"
Brian Garlitz is an attorney who resides in Waxahachie and is currently running for Ellis County Republican Party Chairman in the March 2, 2010 Republican primary. His campaign Web site is www.BrianGar litz.com and he can be contacted at 214.736.7171 or Brian@Brian Garlitz.com.