One March afternoon while on spring break, my son Josh walked into our county's board of elections.
He explained he was a local kid who'd lived in the community for 12 years and had interned the prior summer at Rep. Jackie Speier's San Mateo, CA district office. About to complete his freshman year at George Washington University where he planned to major in political science, Josh told the communications director he encountered that he loved stats -- from baseball to politics -- and that, after volunteering for Obama since 2007, he wanted a summer job around voting.
There was no job open. But by the time Josh was done, she'd promised to try to employ him under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant. From May 18th when he came home for the summer, for about three weeks, he patiently and persistently called several times each day to see when they needed him to start. May 19th was a special election in CA. So was June 2nd. But Josh didn't give up.
Finally, in mid-June, Josh began his paid work for San Mateo County. His duties? Visiting as many of the 200 polling places in San Mateo County as he could reach to make sure they'd be accessible to people with disabilities: Were the doorways wide enough? Were there ramps? Could you vote from a wheelchair?
Josh also took on some extra projects, like blogging about what he saw--including the polling place with the llamas grazing in front. He wrote PSAs about the county's first-time offer of free rides to the polls in senior vans for voters with disabilities. In the family tradition, my son's name doesn't appear on the blog or the PSA he helped write.
One slow day before his official orientation, Josh said he thought the senior van story might be newsworthy. So he helped draft a press release, picked up the phone and called a few local TV stations, several of which seemed open to running the story.
As the days grow shorter, I still remember the awestruck phone call from scenic U.S. Coastal Highway 1, I got when, having driven around 150 miles -- California counties can be huge -- Josh tossed his survey clipboard on the passenger seat of his ten year old Toyota, stopped to stretch his legs and take a short stroll and a cellphone snapshot of a sun-kissed Pacific beach.
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