Peacekeepers at the Polls

Yesterday Abbie and I voted.  After a rainy day it was still misting a bit late afternoon and seemed like a time when less people would be attempting in-person early voting at the Board of Elections on Morse Rd.  So we headed out.  The line was still quite long (partly due to social distancing guidelines, well-marked on the pavement) but it moved surprisingly quickly and we were in and out in about a half hour.  I was encouraged that the large majority of people wore masks, even outside.  People mostly kept to themselves in line, but all the interactions I observed were respectful.  Once inside it was impressive to be part of an efficient and well-organized process of confirming ID and being directed to a voting booth that had plenty of distance from adjacent booths.  For those who want to vote in person but don’t want to wait until election day, I recommend it – although it might take longer than a half hour!

Earlier in the day I had been part of a Peacekeepers at the Polls training.  An interfaith coalition is helping train a cohort of clergy and social workers that will have a unique role at the polls alongside poll monitors. A Peacekeeper provides a visible presence (wearing clerical garb if clergy) and is prepared for conflict prevention, de-escalation, and harm reduction.  The training included talking through scenarios such as an unmasked voter coughing and those around them being perturbed, voters having a verbal or physical fight, non-voters engaging voters in various forms of heckling or intimidation or discouragement from voting (such as police officers going around the parking lot checking license plates, or people telling voters they are ineligible to vote at this location).  There is a hotline to call for help if needed. 

I was reminded of how de-escalation is a life skill in which there is always more to learn, a way of thinking beyond the typical win-lose mindset. 

My personal voting experience was peaceful, and I appreciate this coalition’s effort to be prepared for less peaceful situations.  And maybe having a peacekeeping corps is something all municipalities should have ready to deploy when needed throughout the year…

Peacemakers at the Polls is focused on the high traffic days of weekend early voting and November 3.  If you are a social worker and have interest in being trained, HERE is a link.  I’m also glad to share more of what I learned if you want to be in touch.