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November 2, 2012

The Lousy Job of Poll-Taking

Harry M. Covert

Polls seem to have overtaken all facets of living, scientific or not. Thankfully I’ve escaped the robo telephone calls, but I still get flooded by requests for my opinion from Internet sites – newspapers, banks, sports teams and the like.


Similar to questions on the Frederick County ballot for next week, I’m always replying no, no, no and no to poll takers. I try to do it politely. My friend Mitchell always suggests that if I need prognostication don’t waste time counting opinions; visit a palmist, the gypsy fortune teller, or go to a local tea room and count the tea leaves, preferably Earl Grey or Black Pekoe.


On the national level it seems the crystal ball gazers say the race is 50-50, not counting independents. That’s an easy guess.


Locally, I don’t think that’s correct. Mitchell says it’s more likely 70-30 for the ins. Don’t drive to West Virginia to make any wagers, though.


I have devised my own method of “poll-collecting.” Started this week at the gas station nearby after seeing the prices go up four cents. I paid cash and the opportunity availed so I asked the attendant how he saw the election. “I can’t vote yet. Not a citizen.”


Next stop was the Cracker Barrel. I waded through the long line before finding I had a short wait. Looking over the old-fashioned candy stand, I asked a lady customer, how she saw the election. “I’m from Delaware, traveling south, maybe stop in Memphis to see Elvis. I don’t have time to vote.”




The server came. After bringing a cream orange, I asked the question. “You going to vote Tuesday?”


“I’m too busy right now to talk any politics. I can tell you this, I don’t like gamblin’ and I don’t like all those younger people campaignin.’ You’ll love our fried okra today.”


If I was looking for a job, poll taking would not be high on the list.


I moved on to downtown Frederick and to Market Street. People were walking into various eateries; and so I went into the Weinberg Center to pick up tickets for the November 11 Lyle Lovett show. No one wanted to talk voting or candidates. “We have lots of good shows coming. Here are your tickets and I know you’ll enjoy it.”


Well, I’ve heard Mr. Lovett before. He and his acoustic band are terrific and I hope he’ll perform “That’s Right You’re Not from Texas.” This will be after the election. I’m from West Frederick.


I wasn’t making much headway in this poll taking. I wanted to be able to make an educated guess equaling the pundites (that’s a word I created).


Giving up now was too easy and I had to visit the grocery store at Frederick Shopping Center. A driver looking for a parking spot yelled that lots of people were standing in line to pre-vote on Taney Avenue. “Who’re they for?” The question was lost in the wind.


I was getting a bit concerned at this point. Went through the aisles, filled up the shopping cart and made it to checkout. Couldn’t resist asking the young cashier her choices.


The petite young lass said she wasn’t into politics. “I just graduated from high school this year.”


Two guys were sitting out front of the store as I left. I had to try one more time. They were relaxing – smoking demon cigarettes, one a Newport and the other a Lucky Strike.


Both refused to participate in my poll. “Can you give us a couple of dollars,” the Luckies’ man said. “Wanna get some coffee.” The Newport guy grinned. I felt generous, gave them $5. “We can’t vote,” said Mr. Newport. “Just got out of jail.”


If you ask me there are lots of people voting in these parts and lots of them just “ain’t saying for whom or what – yet.”


Voting and politics are generally private. It’s not surprising that the activists do all the talking and the public remains “mute as shadfish.”


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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