The stories behind voter registration
Thursday, July 12 — Despite the slashing rain, the jobless lined up for more than an hour Wednesday outside a building in the Central Florida Fairgrounds, many spurred by the hope that the Job Fair would change their lives.
As the doors opened at noon, hundreds of young, middle-aged, and elderly men and women surged toward rows of tables set up by companies like Bright House and Walt Disney World.
The job seekers roamed the room, many skirting the table where I waited with LWVOC Voter Services Chair Carol Davis, ready to launch our first major registration effort of the year. The League had been invited by the Central Florida Employment Council, organizers of the Job Fair.
Neither Carol nor I knew what to expect and at first it didn’t seem as if we would be signing up many voters.
“May I submit my resume?” a woman asked, stretching out her hand and giving me a broad smile.
“I’m sorry we are volunteers with the League of Women Voters,” I replied, getting a lump in my throat as her shoulders slumped and the smile faded. “But we would love to help you register to vote, if you aren’t registered.”
To my left, I could hear Carol calling out: “Are you registered to vote?”
Suddenly, a young man stepped forward and asked for a registration form. As he stood there filling in his name, address etc., another man and then a woman approached. Soon Carol and I had as many as three people at a time filling-in the forms.
And as they lingered, they told us their stories.
One woman couldn’t afford to get her driving license updated. An elderly woman had just been laid off and was worried about her future. One woman had returned from Uganda where she worked as a missionary.
A legally blind woman needed help with filling in her form, but signed her signature more clearly than those with good eyesight. She told me how she was born with no sight in one eye.
Another woman had moved to Florida from Chicago.
“It is so hard keeping sending out resumes and never hearing anything,” she said, taking the registration form, then sitting at the table to fill it in.
We even had three convicted felons stop by to express regrets that they weren’t allowed to vote.
One disturbing thing was the number of young people who told Carol that they had no intention of voting, they weren’t interested in politics and politicians didn’t do anything anyway.
Within an hour we had registered about 15 people and were thoroughly pumped. We carefully wrote the League’s third-party registration organization number, the date and time on the forms. Only later when I took the forms to the Supervisor of Elections office did I learn that the number, date and time must be written on the back of the form. Each Elections Office has its own rules.
Business was booming when League members Marty and Mark Sullivan, Jean Siegfried and Phyllis Morscheiser arrived to help. Phyllis had been hijacked by the CFEC, who mistook her inquiry for directions to the League table and had put her to work volunteering for them.
I left early and drove to the Elections Office, thrilled to be turning in the first 26 completed forms. The number would increase considerably by the time registration ended at 4 p.m.
It is hard to describe the sense of achievement we felt. For Orange County the proverbial journey of a thousand miles began with the registering of 46 new voters at Wednesday’s Job Fair.
By Ann Hellmuth