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(S)he Who Counts the Vote

September 6, 2010

By Zach Roberts


I’ve covered elections for five years now, focusing on election integrity issues – vote theft, machine issues, etc. Through those years, I’ve filmed Natives voting in Indian country in the Southwest, had secret off-the-record conversations with precinct captains in New Orleans, and even talked to a surfer who lost an election because her own party refused to count her write-in votes. In nearly all the stories I’ve covered and researched, absentee ballots are the deciding factor.

There’s a lot that can go wrong with them, and a lot that can be made to go wrong with them. Talk to Kerry, Gore, Norm Coleman – they would tell you stories on how even a stray mark can throw out a ballot in many states. Which is why, when I was standing in the room where they were counting absentee ballots for the Miller/Murkowski primary, I asked a kind looking older gentlemen wearing a sticker identifying himself as a member of the Joe Miller camp, “Are you questioning any of the absentee ballots for stray marks?” He said, “No. It’s all pretty straightforward.”

I was comforted by that answer but then he continued talking. At first I didn’t pay that much attention as I was busy filming.

Miller Sticker: “The thing about state workers…About 90% of them are women. So when you’re handling elections of a man and woman candidate…”

He let the statement drop.

At first I took the “90%” as a joke, and didn’t really process the second part, and I responded “That’s everywhere… I’ve covered a lot of vote counts and that sort of thing in Arizona, New Mexico, California it’s pretty much a universal…” which is true.

A really good percentage of the election day workers and volunteers are older woman. Oddly, in all my days in this field, I’ve never heard that questioned. It’s always been joked about, but within the context of respect. That these people took the time out of their day to do an incredibly boring (but rewarding) job of manning a table, and dealing with often unhappy people who have driven to the wrong precinct, or can’t find their name on the list. Sometime these blue-haired mavens can be a bit testy toward journalists but more often than not they are a great resource for information, directions and a good laugh.

It was only after he continued down the sexist(?) line of thought, that I realized that it wasn’t a light-hearted joke.

Miller Sticker Guy: “Their pay is so low, I think that’s why it’s all women. We need some equal opportunity down here to get some men.”

He was being serious. Not only was he suggesting that the Board of Elections needed stronger EOP implementation (Which is quite interesting coming from a man with a Miller sticker), but he was suggesting that the kindly women that were counting the votes were potentially so sexist themselves, that they would have thrown out the bearded one’s votes. I guess as most of the rabid Palin supporters always say to Palin’s female detractors… “They’re just jealous because (s)he’s so beautiful.”

Just a note to the Miller Sticker Guy, Russell Kurt, a Joe Miller ‘counter,’ next time you’re making unfunny sexist comments to random guy with a camera… make sure that guy doesn’t have a sticker on that says “THE MUDFLATS.”

Zach Roberts is currently in Anchorage filming “The Rogue Candidate: Sarah Palin’s REAL Alaska.” (Http:// He previously worked with BBC journalist Greg Palast as a researcher and producer. Follow him on twitter at zdroberts. If you’re in the Anchorage area please shoot him an e-mail if you’d like to share your thoughts on camera about Alaskan politics

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