You may have noticed that Porter County, Indiana still had 0 percent reporting for the 2018 election as of Friday morning. In the map below, Porter is that gray county in the upper left. I was a poll worker there this past Tuesday.

Buckle up, because nothing in this story goes according to plan.

Screenshot via CNN

This was my first year as a poll worker. My husband signed up with me. I was a poll clerk and my husband was an election judge (responsible for checking IDs at the door, helping with the scanners, and delivering ballots to the courthouse at the end of the day). We were excited to do our part to ensure every eligible voter in our county was allowed to cast a ballot. Yay, democracy!

Our excitement started to wane when we weren’t trained. We emailed multiple times to ask about training. We were repeatedly told we would be trained soon. Finally, on October 26, after we’d practically begged over email to be trained, the county set up classes. However, they made it very difficult for poll workers to attend. Classes were announced at the last minute or were only offered during the workday. Due to the inconvenient and inflexible timing of these classes, I was unable to make any of the in-person training sessions. Instead, I watched the county’s online training videos and thoroughly studied the training manuals.

I learned that each precinct has two judges and two clerks, one from each party. They’re there to ensure fairness. An inspector (a.k.a., the boss) is appointed from the leading party in each county. In theory, it’s very balanced. If anything, I’m glad I volunteered because I was able to see how elections work.

Before I describe the shit show that was election day, I’ll note that everyone at the polling location was kind and there for one reason only — to make sure every single eligible person had the opportunity to vote. Democrats and Republicans worked together. The Republican inspector was fantastic. Honestly, it was inspiring.

However, when we showed up at 5 a.m. on Election Day, we noticed many of the required election officials were missing. Two inspectors were M.I.A., and so were the ballots. We also didn’t have the required Republican and Democratic counterparts for each position. Less than an hour before the election was to start, we were unable to open — let alone guarantee a fair election. The only inspector who was there began making calls.

Two inspectors were M.I.A., and so were the ballots.

The rest of us did what we could to get ready with limited supplies and people. At 6 a.m., the ballot boxes weren’t working. Inspectors were still M.I.A. We couldn’t open. My stomach sank. I was trying to do something good and now I’d probably be on local evening news.

Finally, a sheriff’s deputy showed up with two suitcases full of ballots. (I originally mentioned on Twitter that he showed up after 6, but my husband said he thought it was actually shortly before 6. It was a hectic morning, and I apologize for the initial error.) We were still missing the required Republican and Democratic counterparts for each polling position so we improvised. We combined positions between the three precincts present and opened the polls at 6:12.

Whew, right? Not even close. It just got worse.

Shortly after we opened, voters from a fourth precinct started to show up. The newspaper had listed four precincts at our location. We knew nothing about this, and we had zero workers or ballots for a fourth precinct (we barely had what we needed for the three precincts we knew about).

I wasn’t about to let these people just walk away without getting a chance to vote, so I got on the phone and started making calls. I tried the election and voter registration office numbers. All lines were busy. I finally tried the state election hotline and was able to reach someone. They informed me that the fourth precinct was not supposed to be at my polling place. So, I began sending those voters to the right address.

The clerk’s office had listed the wrong address online. The newspaper used that misinformation in their election article. The Chesterton Tribune later published a correction:

Where is Liberty 3?
Over the last 24 hours at least three different readers have contacted the Tribune to say that the location of the Liberty 3 polling place — Liberty Township Middle School Auditorium, 50W 900N, as listed in Monday’s edition of the paper — was incorrect.
Those readers were right.
The actual location of Liberty 3 is Faith Memorial Lutheran Church, 753 N. Calumet Ave.
The Tribune, however, listed the Liberty Township Middle School Auditorium in good faith, after finding it named on the obvious place to look: the Liberty 3 precinct map on the Porter County Voter Registration’s website, under the “Forms & Precinct Maps” link, where it remained uncorrected this morning.
Voters can find the correct location of Liberty 3 — Faith Memorial Lutheran Church — but they have to look for it: first google “Porter County polling places”; then click on the top link, “Porter County, IN — Official Website — Polling Locations”; then click on “FIND YOUR POLL LOCATION. CLICK HERE.”
In other words, the Clerk’s Office has listed, in two different places, two different addresses for Liberty 3.

Everything should have been okay then, right? Uh, no.

I soon learned the new location for the fourth precinct wasn’t open. Poll workers were in the parking lot, locked out. So, they turned voters away. Voters — many of whom I’d turned away — started coming back to our location, desperate to vote. I finally reached someone at the local level and told them about the locked polling location. By this time, it was 6:56 a.m. (nearly an hour after polls opened), and the official I spoke to was hearing about this issue for the first time.

It was later reported that the locked location opened at 7:45 a.m., along with eleven other locations in the county that opened at least an hour late. That doesn’t even include locations like ours that opened approximately 15 minutes late.

The courts got involved. The Democrats’ lawyers wanted to extend hours at those locations to make up for the late openings. Republicans fought it, originally saying an extension would be unfair (later, according to local media, they claimed the court did not have legal authority to extend voting hours). Thankfully, the state judge ordered the extended hours.

But again, this was still not over.

Around noon, we were told to expect a delivery of absentee ballots to count and include in our precinct’s vote total. We waited. Hours went by. No absentee ballots.

The inspector started making phone calls. By now, it was 5 p.m. and there were still no absentee ballots. This may not seem like a big deal, but we’re talking about 15,000 or so absentee ballots across the county. All of them were supposed to be opened by me and the other clerks. We were supposed to look up every absentee voter in the poll book of registered voters, make sure they hadn’t voted in person, and mark them down as an absentee voter in the poll book. All of these absentee ballots were M.I.A. When 6 p.m. arrived, local officials told us to close without any absentee ballots. The inspector and the judges locked up the regular ballots and took them to the courthouse to be processed.

When my husband, an election judge, arrived at the courthouse, he was told he couldn’t leave. Deputies were driving around the county in an attempt to deliver absentee ballots, but they were reporting that polling locations were closed. Apparently, no one could leave until the absentee ballots arrived and were counted. It was all very confusing.

At this point, I put on my coat and was about to head to the courthouse myself to help count the absentee ballots. It didn’t matter that I had just worked for 13 hours. I was ready to finish my job. As I was walking out the door, my husband texted me to say I wasn’t allowed to help. Something about “chain of custody”? Whatever the reason, I was told I should stay home.

Meanwhile, chaos was breaking out at the courthouse. People were worried about what happened to those absentee ballots while they were missing. Was the election compromised? Word spread that the absentees wouldn’t be counted, but instead would be marked as provisional ballots. Early voters were afraid they had possibly thrown their votes away. Local social media blew up. I tried to keep people informed, but I only knew what I saw and what I heard from my husband. The courts weighed in again to sort it out, ruling that all ballots (including absentee ballots) should be counted and included in the final results.

At the same time, races were called. People in my county saw winners announced and knew their votes were sitting in a squad car somewhere, unable to affect the race at all.

Lawyers and the courts (and now the FBI) are figuring out what happened in Porter County on November 6, 2018. They’ve reassured us that everything will be thoroughly investigated. We’ve been told that processes will be changed so this never happens again. Porter County’s election results have just been released, but the damage has already been done.

They broke multiple election laws, and I’m not sure they’ll ever be held accountable.

It’s one thing to see a race called with 50 percent of your precinct reported. Your vote could have been in that 50 percent. Yes, technically, your vote could have been in the half not yet counted, but still, you can believe your vote mattered, even if your candidate didn’t win.

It’s a completely different thing to know that your vote couldn’t possibly have mattered due to the incompetence of your local government. To know that officials in charge of the election did such a shoddy job that your ballot was sitting uncounted in a box in the trunk of a squad car as the rest of the country made critical decisions about its future.

Officials in charge of this election weren’t equipped to do their job. They didn’t train us. They were short staffed. They broke multiple election laws, and I’m not sure they’ll ever be held accountable.

Note: Elections in our county used to be run by an election board. This year, they voted to have the County Clerk’s office run it instead. The County Clerk was one of the deciding votes that made the change happen. That County Clerk, who was now in charge of this election, was on the ballot for County Auditor. Thankfully, she lost. Officials are now asking her to resign.