I Was an Election Poll Worker
For Election Day this year I was a poll worker. As a previous voter myself, I had a general idea of what the job entailed; Helping people vote by ensuring voters were given their right to privacy and that each vote was accurately counted. I knew I would sit behind a table with a large book of community member names and addresses. I also knew voting would be performed in private booths but beyond that I was pretty much in the dark.
Voter turnout was expected to be low. The hottest issue on the ballot included our town’s mayor election. Two city councilmen positions were also up for grabs but as no one was running against either of the candidates, it was not much of a race. All three positions were also city votes, meaning the only people who could vote, were city residents. There was one county issue, a water bond, but it affected less than 10% of the county.
If we saw a 1000 people that day, we would have considered ourselves lucky and the election a success. In reality, we had about 450 voters. Still, I enjoyed the position and I learned a lot about our voting process.
It’s a Long Day
Anyone associated with politics can probably tell you this; Election Day is a very long day and that includes for poll workers. I arrived at our local fairgrounds at 7 am and I would be on hand until at least 8 p.m. or even later.
What I did not realize was in my state, once you have officially clocked on for poll duty you may not leave the building until you clock out for the day. Not for lunch. Not even for a quick run to your car or a Starbucks run for a midday caffeine break which became very important to me as the day continued on.
Bring your belongings and dress comfortably.
As I had known going in, it was to be a long day. I had dressed in loose-fitting layers and comfortable shoes. I had also brought a few food-related items but not enough for the entire day as I was expecting to eat my main lunch at home during my lunch hour while letting my dog outside.
Luckily for me, the ladies I worked with came prepared for a potluck because all I had for my to tie me over was a small bag of carrots I had sliced up that morning, an even smaller bag of almonds and a Cup of Noodles. Slim pickings for such a long day when I couldn’t leave the building. Even luckier for my dog, a quick text to my neighbor allowed her to be let outside.
No Personal Politics
This probably goes without saying but leave your political opinions at home. Though that is easier said than done when you are in such a politically charged environment and passions are running high. People talk a lot and they want to discuss their opinions with you.
Still it is not a poll worker’s position to share politics. Poll workers are not hired to inform voters about the issues or the candidates. You may not show any political affiliation by wearing hats, shirts, stickers or pens. According to the hand book provided by my state, you are not even allowed to have newspapers, magazines or any sort of political materials or clothing with you.
New Respect for Local Politicians
In a nation where most people are disenchanted with the political process, I developed a lot of respect for our local candidates.
Our locals have little to gain by running for office in my community. City and county officials get a small salary and sometimes health insurance but our school board members receive absolutely nothing for their time in office.
Instead, people who run locally are looking to make a difference in their communities. And while I might not always agree with their choices, or even like them personally, they have earned my respect.
Every Vote Counts
Again, in a time when politics has reached an all-time low, it is easy to understand why voter turnout is so low. In my own community this week where roughly 450 people showed up to vote, our mayor race was determined by two votes.
That race is being contested. A recount of the votes is being made with a special look at people voting who were not in the city residents. Reminding us all just how important the County Clerk, who oversees the election process for our town including the poll workers, is to the political process.
Voters Must Come Prepared
An important issue to consider; states have different voting laws and need to know your state’s information to vote and to prove residency. A state-issued I.D. and a power bill can establish you as a resident in my state. Here, a photo I.D. is required though, if you come without you can fill out an alternative form.
Know the issues and know your candidates before you show up to vote. I watched a mildly upset man this week who came to vote but expected information regarding the candidates from the poll workers. As mentioned above, poll workers are legally prohibited from sharing any voter information with the voters. This man left feeling very frustrated.
Last But Not Least
Have fun. Enjoy your coworkers and the surrounding voters. Election Day is a privilege and exciting to watch your community take part in.
I talked with old friends who I hadn’t seen in months. I was introduced to new babies. We celebrated first-time voters and witnessed senior citizens who struggled so hard getting in to vote.
I really enjoyed my day working with our political process and look forward to March 2020 for our spring Primary Election. As it will include the beginnings of the presidential election, it will be larger and busier and I will have a bit of experience behind me. This time, going in, I will be better prepared. I will bring food to share and ensure my personal needs are cared for, including the three friends who have already offered to provide for my mid-afternoon Starbucks run.