Waiting for George
At Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale on November 5, nobody talked about Jeb or Bill, preschool or the death penalty, smoking or pregnant pigs. In fact, it was damn near impossible to hear conversation about anyone or anything other than George Anthony Silvore Jr., a voter as mysterious as Sasquatch.
George, you see, was the only person registered in 103R, one of four precincts at Calvary. As the hours passed, we poll workers in the other precincts -- 71R, 73R, and 101R -- all began calling him by his first name. At 5:45 a.m. the two people assigned to George's precinct set up a voting machine, taped blue lines on the floor to guide the lone voter, and displayed an array of necessary forms, should he need them. Then they commenced waiting for him and him alone.
"I think we should just call George and ask him if he plans to vote today," said Judie, who was working in 101R. "There's no sense in [George's] poll workers sitting around all day if he's not even going to vote." A cross between June Cleaver and Lucille Ball, Judie was dressed like a big bowl of rainbow sherbet, in pastel-striped capri pants and a pink button-down shirt embroidered with butterflies. Her outfit screamed "Feminine!" and was set off by her hair, which was dyed the color of a pomegranate.
All day Judie and the other poll workers watched and waited for George. They were excited each time a male voter mistakenly approached.
"Is that him?" one worker whispered to Mae, a sweet retiree who was also working at 101R, as a handsome man in tennis shorts took out an ID and handed it to one of George's poll workers.
"I don't know," Mae said, temporarily ignoring the line of voters waiting to register.
Even Gene, the gruff former Marine and head clerk of precinct 101R, was swept up. "I think that's George!" Gene exclaimed when a nicely dressed man in his 40s stopped at George's table. All eight workers at 101R turned to look.
The poll workers rushed bathroom breaks, afraid to miss George's cameo. They periodically checked the register to see whether George had signed in. But while the three-ring binders that listed the alphabetized names of voters filled up at the other three precincts, George's register book remained blank.
Tewanna, a talkative redhead who bears an uncanny resemblance to MTV's "Just Say Julie" Brown, was one of George's poll workers. As she waited, she said she had volunteered to be a poll worker after hearing about the voting problems in September. She wore jeans, comfortable shoes, a hot-pink shirt to match the pink script on her navy blue "Broward County Elections Office" apron, a pink-and-white coordinating scarf, and gold star earrings to show her patriotism. Tewanna was paid $140 for the day and $30 for training.
Near Tewanna was George's voting machine, paid for by Broward County taxpayers. Cost: approximately $3,300. Like the others in Calvary Chapel, it had been readied before the polls opened. But it quickly slipped into sleep mode.
Between 7 and 10 a.m., when the line for all of Calvary's precincts snaked out the building's front double doors, the poll workers began to use the George story to entertain impatient voters. George became the personification of government waste.
Judie was the most enthusiastic teller of the George tale. From her post distributing the "I voted. Did you?" stickers, she honed in on folks who seemed particularly frustrated and said, "You want to hear a really good one?" Squinting and speaking in conspiratorial tones, Judie drew in her listeners, then began, "You see that machine standing by itself over there? That machine is for one man. There's only one man in the whole precinct! And those two ladies have to sit there all day long to wait and see if he shows up." Then she'd give the people an enthusiastic wink and a nod.
I heard Judie's monologue on George about a dozen times that day. It wasn't what I, a New Times staff writer, had expected when I signed up as a poll worker in late September. I didn't mention my employment to anyone. After all, Florida statute 102.101 prohibits news reporters from entering a polling place unless there to cast a ballot.
My preparation was, to put it mildly, mediocre. On October 23, having received no precinct assignment, I called the elections office and was transferred around a few times before a woman named Naomi told me I would be working at Calvary.
Two days later, I attended a mandatory three-hour training session at South Plantation High School. Arriving a half hour late, I immediately heard the gasp of a skinny Latina teetering on spike heels as she left the building. "I can't handle this," she said. It got worse. There weren't enough training manuals; the instruction video wouldn't play, and the training session finally started 45 minutes late. The instructor, a man who identified himself as Tony Marinaro, read the manual aloud for 20 minutes. Then he stopped to say, "I just got word that some people are asleep. If the person next to you is asleep, could you please lean over and wake them up."
I left poll-worker training with no idea of what I was supposed to do. In fact, all I learned about being a Broward County election worker I learned from a special election section in the November 3 Sun-Sentinel.
By late in the day on November 5, turnout had topped 40 percent in the precinct where I worked. George's precinct still stood at zero. As the lines grew longer, word spread. Many voters wanted to know about the guy.
"Where does he live?" begged one.
"Has he been here yet?" asked another.
"Have you seen him?" queried a third.
George, for one day, was the Elvis of Broward County, the Santa of Cypress Creek Road. I began to feel a little guilty about my presence. Could I describe my experience, despite the law? Then Judie took care of my concerns. "Someone should tell a reporter about George," Judie told Mae and me.
Then her eyes lit up. "Wait, Rebekah. Didn't you say you write for a newspaper?" she asked me.
"Umm, yeah," I replied cautiously, recalling that a few hours earlier our head clerk had forced a New Times' photographer out of Calvary.
"You should write about George. People need to know about that," she said, giving me her signature wink and nod.
"Gee, Judie, you know, that's a great idea," I said. "I think I'll do that. Thanks."
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