County clerk Larry Kestenbaum
Before election day, the county will inspect voting equipment and will train more than 500 temporary poll workers. On November 4 itself, Kestenbaum will monitor the vote from his office, watching out for malfunctioning voting machines, shortages of poll workers, or any partisan challenges over voters' qualifications. Because he is also a candidate in the election, he will not be allowed in the polling places-except to cast his own vote.
Like people who commit baseball stats to memory, Kestenbaum has absorbed details of many political races in American history. And some acquaintances view him as both sage and seer-they assume he can predict tomorrow's winners from yesterday's races. Kestenbaum has been asked but declined to give an opinion on who will win the most important race of all in November-in part, he admits, because he doesn't want to look foolish if he's wrong.
"I can tell you as an absolute fact that Obama is going to carry Washtenaw County," he says, smiling. "That doesn't tell you much!"
[Originally published in October, 2008.]