Heroes of Democracy

The WSJ has a fun piece today on the travails of being a poll worker in India.  The country has a rule that there must be a poll station no further than 2 km from every residential community, which means that the polling agents assigned to rural areas have their work cut out for them.

The US Postal Service has the motto “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed round” but that’s nothing compared to what these poor guys face. They should come up with a similar motto including crocodiles, snakes, elephants, mountains, and crushing heat.

Here are some details of the trials they face:

“There are basically two ways to get to Hanspuri (a town with 261 voters). Going overland would require hacking through dense jungle filled with snakes and across the mountain ridges that serrate North Andaman island—all while carrying the polling machines and other equipment in backpacks. The more practical water route—through the mangrove forests and up the coast—has its own risks, among them: hungry crocodiles and the risk of capsizing.”

Poll workers travel with camel caravans to reach settlements in the deserts of Rajasthan.

Election officials recently had to contend with a herd of wild elephants that blocked the way to two polling stations. Eventually, forest rangers came to the rescue.

Polling officials trekked five hours through a forest carrying a 10-plus-pound polling machine to reach a settlement with just two voters near the Chinese border.

Phase two of the journey required lugging the two voting machines—a precaution in case one malfunctioned—as well as water, food and camping gear to the village. On sections of the path, the poll workers and their escorts had to walk in single file over makeshift bridges roughly the width of gymnastics balance beams.”

Click here for a slideshow of some these obstacles.

Of the 261 voters in Hanspuri, roughly 80% voted.  While that’s a pretty high turnout, if I were that poll worker who took days to trek there, I would be plenty hacked at those who didn’t vote.