IM this article to a friend!

November 19, 2002

Corrigan: He's keepinga close watchon democracy

From: Savannah Morning News, GA
Nov. 19, 2002

By Steve Corrigan
Savannah Morning News

Mark Fishel is a good listener, despite the fact he's been deaf since birth.

Mark hears with his eyes. He's a lip-reader. As long as he can see your face, he knows what you're saying. Sometimes you might have to repeat things a time or two, but for the most part, he understands.

Ask a question, and he answers quickly and clearly. Ask his opinion, and he'll offer it.

He's 43 and lives with his mother and father in midtown Savannah.

His reddish blond hair is cropped short and neat.

And his voice is strong. Some things he says may be hard to understand at first. But before long, even that passes.

He's smart, funny and a bit of a prankster. For instance, he knows what's being said in conversations that are out of earshot. And he can surprise folks sitting across the room who didn't realize he was "listening."

Help wanted -- and found

For the Nov. 5 election, Mark volunteered to help Savannah Republicans. Stanley Kaczorowski was assembling GOP poll watchers to be stationed at various precincts around town.

Mark's mother called Stanley and offered her son's services. She explained Mark was eager and would do a good job. She also explained that he was deaf.

At first, Stanley declined the offer. He didn't think Mark was up to the task, especially with the new electronic voting machines debuting that day.

But Stanley's a pretty sharp guy, and it didn't take him long to realize turning Mark down was a mistake. He called Mark, using a service that allows conversations to literally be spelled out on the other end of the line.

After apologizing, Stanley told Mark he needed his help.

Mark recalls it a bit differently.

"Stanley insisted I do it," Mark said with that mischievous grin of his. "He never takes 'no.' "

Take this job and do it

On Election Day, Mark was assigned to Precinct 1-4 at Jacob Smith School, not far from his home. He arrived early, along with his father, Hank. Now Hank is a funny guy and, as it turned out, was a hit with poll workers.

Mark, on the other hand, was there to work. He kept a sharp eye on the process, always alert to potential irregularities.

Mark took the work seriously and came prepared. Stanley gave him a voting manual containing the rules and regulations. Mark actually read it cover to cover.

This thing's not exactly a page-turner -- not by any stretch. In fact, it's downright laborious.

Yet Mark devoured it. And when he spotted a minor infraction at the polls -- something to do with an oath poll workers are supposed to take -- he was all over it. He headed over to GOP headquarters to point it out to Stanley.

"They (poll workers) could have taken it when you weren't there," Stanley reasoned.

But Mark insisted the rules were rules for a reason. And, conscientious poll worker that he is, insisted they be followed.

While Stanley said the infraction was, in fact, minor, he admired Mark's dedication. But Mark had little time for praise. He had to get back the precinct.

But before he left, he was asked why he wanted to be a poll watcher. After all, there's little to recommend unless you like long hours and no pay.

For Mark, though, it wasn't about time or money.

"I wanted to perform a public service," he said.

Steve Corrigan is an editor on the newspaper's government team. He can be reached at or 652-0318.

Copyright 2002 Savannah Morning News. All rights reserved.