I. In Focus This Week
The great Pumpkin…
…and other tales from the crypt
By M. Mindy Moretti
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood [polling place]…”
With Halloween just around the corner and Election Day not far behind, we thought we’d take a look at a couple of Halloween-themed stories this week.
The Great Pumpkin
In the Halloween Peanuts classic, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” it’s explained that each year the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere.
In Athens County, Ohio, Pumpkin the cat has decided that the Board of Elections office is pretty darn sincere and has lived at the office since 2012.
“He was a rescue kitty from the back parking lot,” explained Director Debra Quivey. “A student who lived next door in an apartment was throwing him out on the street.”
The office is Pumpkin’s permanent home. He is checked on the weekend by a staff member and staff take turns looking in on him on holidays.
“We got him the first week of October, so because of his orange color that's how he got his name,” Quivey explained. “We thought of election related names, but they didn't fit him. He is our Pumpkin.”
Pumpkin has gotten quite famous in the five years he’s been with the board of elections. He has his own Twitter account, although that’s not maintained by the BOE. He has been featured in numerous newspaper articles including the Columbus Dispatch.
He’s even gotten a bit famous in the world of elections. He was featured in a newsletter for Ohio boards of elections. Quivey said he really seems to enjoy his role at the BOE.
“Pumpkin runs the office,” Quivey said with a laugh. “We have staff meetings, he is right there in a chair. Anything we do that requires several people, he is right there. He loves election time and all the excitement. He has ALOT of visitors, which he likes.”
Pumpkin and he even has a guest book. And fortunately, the staff all love Pumpkin and none of them are allergic.
“We’d hate to see a staff member leave,” Quivey said with a laugh.
And because elections work is bipawtisan, Quivey said the board has allowed dogs into the building and that Pumpkin is quite curious about them.
Tales from the crypt
Behind a black wrought iron gate lies a stately neo-classical rotunda that is one of the few remaining places for burials within San Francisco.
The San Francisco Columbarium, the potential resting place for as many as 8,500 souls was built in 1895 and has served as a polling place since 2003.
According to Andy Pastalaniec, manager, polling place section for the San Francisco Department of Elections voters really appreciate the experience of casting their ballot in an architecturally beautiful, interesting and historic fixture of their neighborhood.
“Because there are nearly 600 polling places in a 49-square mile area, voters who vote at the Columbarium tend to be quite familiar with the facility, as it features prominently in their neighborhood.”
Pastalaniec said that they have never received a negative comment from poll workers or voters about using the Columbarium as a polling place.
"The Inspector at this polling places has served there since 2012, and requests to be assigned there because it's ‘nice and quiet,’ explained Yelena Cappello, manager, poll worker section. “Apparently the other clerks also appreciate the serenity. He said voters seem to really enjoy the space!"
Although everyone talks about how peaceful the Columbarium is, we had to ask if voters or poll workers have ever noticed anything strange happening on Election Day. Pastalaniec said no, but rumor has it a former San Francisco poll locator is buried at the Columbarium.
And even though California is slowing moving to a vote-by-mail/vote center state, Pastalaniec said the elections department has no immediate plans to phase out polling places in favor of vote centers and they hope to use the Columbarium for as long as they can — an eternity perhaps.
And finally, you can’t really write about elections and Halloween without mentioning zombie voters.
In Georgia, Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), who is a candidate for secretary of state in 2018 has created a campaign commercial where he vows to be vigilant against zombie voters.
The most recent case of zombie voting — when a dead person casts a ballot — in Georgia was in 1996.
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