Tales from an Election Judge

Working as an election judge (poll worker) starts ‘way too early!  Several from our team met last night at the church hall where folks in our precinct would be voting today to get as much of the set-up done as we could.  One of the last things our supervising judge told us was to remember to bring a cushion because the folding chairs would get very hard.  This was the fourth election I’ve worked and the first time I took a cushion.  It did make all the difference!

Getting up at 4 a.m. in order to be at the polling place by 5 a.m. was tough!  It was made even more so by my being awake for a couple of hours during a night that was already going to be shorter than usual even though I went to bed quite a bit earlier than normal.  Just before I got up I had a dream that I had slept through the alarm and turned up at the polls an hour or more late!  It was so real that I really had to check when the alarm actually did go off.  I listened with a sense of relief that I hadn’t slept through it.

We were ready, we thought, when the polls opened at 6 a.m.  But we under-estimated the size of the crowd of voters who came foaming through the doors.  We had four lines to check in people and all of them were immediately stretched from the check-in table to the back wall and around into the hall.  The parking lot, from what we were told, was a zoo and people were parking at McDonald’s a block away and walking down to the church.  The crowd stayed at that level for three or four hours I think.  My partner and I were checking in one voter per minute during that period.  Finally, a little after 10 a.m. the pace slowed down.

We expected the same kind of crowd over the lunch period but had very few voters come in then.  We were puzzled.  All afternoon we had just a trickle of voters.  We expected another burst when the after-work voters would come but the trickle only thickened a little and we never did have another big surge of voters.  Even so, over 2000 people voted in our precinct. 

This afternoon we were talking among ourselves as we waited for voters to come.  One woman came in and announced that she had spent the day in church praying for the election.  She was checked in, given a ballot and sent to a booth to vote.  As we chatted and talked, she came rushing up and told us she was trying to concentrate and vote and she couldn’t do because of our noise!  We immediately hushed but her behavior took us all aback.

Late in the afternoon, about 20 minutes before the polls closed, a young woman came in.  When she was asked if the address in our register was the correct one, she said no, that she lived in a town about 15 miles away.  We have a Palm Pilot which gives voting locations for everyone in the county who is registered to vote so the supervisor looked her up and determined she should vote in Arnold.  She also filled out a change of address form for the woman to take with her to that polling place which the voter signed.  She was told that if she was in line at 7 p.m. she’d be able to vote.  She would have been cutting it close but she should have gotten to that polling place in time to vote.

Right before the polls closed her father arrived, angry with us and threatening to — well, not exactly sue us but the next thing to it because he said we refused to let his daughter vote.  The supervisor tried to explain to him what had happened and that, according to state law, once his daughter had said the address on our register wasn’t correct, we had to go with what she said, not what was written in our book and that we didn’t deny his daughter the opportunity to vote and had directed her to the correct polling place.  He would not be placated.

I’m sure every election judge has stories to tell about their day today.  These are a few of mine.

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