Maybe we do need a recount, but not because of voter fraud.

On March 15th, 2016, I served as an election judge in the presidential primaries. I was up bright and early at 4:30 AM so I could get some coffee and breakfast before I got there. I ended up getting there early and when I went in there was only one other person there. It was 8 of us in total since our location covered two wards. By the time polls opened at 7, we weren’t fully finished setting up, which was a good indication of how the rest of the day was going to go.

To say that the whole thing was a mess seems like an understatement. It didn’t seem like any of us really knew what were doing even though most of them had been election judging for years. I was the youngest by far, with the second youngest being a woman in her mid-thirties. Throughout the day, my roles included registering people to vote and checking people in to vote. Both were not hard tasks, but the messiness came in the fact that we didn’t actually figure out how to register people until several hours in. Our one electronic voting station was also not working for the first few hours, so we had to call someone to fix it for us. One of sticker printers was also not working, which forced us to fill out the information by hand. And for some reason, an excessive amount of registered voters came in to vote and had to wait ridiculous amounts of times because they were not showing up in our system. We had a young man waiting for over an hour and another young woman had to wait over an hour and come back various times only to end up having to cast a provisional ballot. After multiple hours we learned that if someone was not our system we had to call the election commission office and they would have to then look up the person to determine if they were registered. After a few phone calls, we also learned how to register people who weren’t registered, which became my job for most of the day. One of the judges also did nothing for most of the day except eat potato chips and cause drama. Our dynamic as a groups was not the best, and there were multiple times where I wanted to tell them that they were doing something wrong, but I was 17 and I told myself that these people know better than me. For example, we were doing provisional votes for people who were registered because they weren’t in our system. And in case you didn’t know provisional are pretty much purely symbolic. They don’t go in the actual tally of votes until later, usually when the winner of the state has already been declared. At some points though, it seemed like they were coming to me to tell them how to do something. I also noticed that there was a general lack of communication between the election commission and the judges based on the fact that we all seemed to be told different things on how to do certain things. For example, I had been told that certain forms of ID were acceptable when registering to vote, but others were telling voters to go home to get mail with their address even though on the website said that a driver’s license was sufficient to prove one’s address.

So what is the point of telling you all this? The point is that there were several points where I was sure we were doing something wrong, and I find it very probable that a few votes here and there may have been sacrificed to our lack of synergy (two words: provisional ballot). Not only this, but after seeing so many people have to wait extended amounts of time or just have trouble proving that they were in fact registered, I feared that some of them may not think this whole “participating in democracy” business isn’t really worth it, and they may not want to do it again. And I hate the fact that a voter’s voting experience would prevent them from coming back. What made me even more concerned was hearing from some of my peers who served as election judges in the November 8th election. While I and most of my fellow judges received some type of prior training, most of them received no training at all and were still permitted to election judge. They also reported back very similar experiences to mine, expressing the fact that they felt that no one really knew what they were doing but that they somehow jut made it work. It doesn’t help that voting rules are different across counties and states. Many people are walking into their polling place not knowing if they need ID or how to register. The process of voting needs to be clearer and easier, and the people who conduct elections and handle you votes need to be trained on how to do it. If election judging is similar across the state or across the country, how many votes are being left in the cracks? How many voters are discouraged from voting again?