Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Day

In our state, there are several ways people could have voted. They could request an absentee ballot, and when they receive it, simply fill it out and drop it in the mail, postage paid. Then there was Early voting. There was one location you could go to and fill out a paper ballot early, presumably to avoid the very long lines we had at the last presidential election. There were people who waited up to six hours in this early voting.

I worked on Election Day, having to get there at 5:30. Yes that would be a.m. We were told to pack a lunch, and take anything we could possibly need because with the big turnout we might not get a chance to do anything more than sneak away for a few minutes at a time, and only if absolutely unnecessary.

When we got there, there were people waiting in line to vote. Yep, at 5:30. Polls open at 6:30. We introduce ourselves to each other, and come up with a game plan for how the machines should be arranged, and check what supplies we have. The machine judges set up the machines while the paper ballot judges and the people in charge of the poll books set up their tables. By this time, the line has wrapped all around outside the gym, and the pressure is on. We want to get these people out of here as quickly as possible because they are already getting impatient, and they are probably going to have to go to work afterwards.

The people in the line were very patient, most people had prepared to wait in line for a long while. I was a greeter, which was the first time for that position. I was nervous, because that meant I was in charge of crowd control, and I wasn't sure I was up to the task, with my short body and my small voice. People said they had waited in line for an hour and a half. And that time kept getting shorter and shorter. We had a glitch that three of our twelve machines were not loaded with paper, but the technician came right away to fix that. By eleven o'clock, there was nobody in line. People could come in to vote, no waiting. And that actually continued for the rest of the day, even during lunchtime and after work. The only time they had to wait was if they came in with someone else who was in the same poll book, which happened pretty frequently. Not just that people came with other family members, but they came at the same time other people with last names that were close to theirs in the alphabet.

Since I was done with crowd control, I just filled in wherever it was needed. When I worked the polls before, we rotated jobs, so I was familiar with all of the positions.

The presiding judge was very laid back, which caused several of the poll workers to step up and decide how things should be. I had to check myself several times to stop doing that, because I know how irritating that can be.

We did have some irritated voters that came in in the afternoon. They had moved, and didn't bring identification, and they were upset about having to do provisional ballots. I thought it was very strange considering they didn't have to wait in line, and got a chance to vote anyway. The last person who came in at 7:30 lived in another section of town, far away, and just wanted to vote, because she had just moved to Ohio. I figured there would be someone coming in at 7:30 to test the system and I was right.

Our biggest glitch came when we were shutting down the machines. The first eleven machines were shut down without any problems, but the twelfth one got hung up, and kept calculating. Neither the technician nor the Board of Elections were answering their phones. when we finally got a hold of BOE they told us to call the technician. When we got a hold of the technician - he came in actually - he told us he couldn't fix this problem, and we had to call the BOE so they could walk us through the proper shut down procedures. This was very frustrating because it had been calculating that last machine for an hour by this point, and we weren't getting paid by the hour, and the first eleven machines were able to shut down just fine, so it was obviously not operator error. Calling the BOE again, we finally got somebody who told us how to cancel what we had done on that machine and try again. It still got hung up, but the third try simply touching the screen helped. We then got the supplies packed up, and headed for home. I had a little scare when the clock in the car said it was 11:00, but it was 10:00 p.m. From 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

I hope you were nice to your poll worker as you went through the line.

By the way, the photo is not of our sticker - I couldn't find a picture of it on the web, but it was a highly valued thing. Many people were very anxious to get their sticker.


Finn said...

Hi Shasta, just popping in to say Hello and see how life is treating you. I sure can sympathize with the election work. I've done it in my village a few years back, and it's not a job that gets much credit. And it should, its a long, long day and altho it's not hard, its stressful, especially Presidential elections. Big hugs, finn

Tanya said...

That was very interesting. As there is nothing like this in Japan I'll be sure to tell my husband and friends how voting is done in the States. Shasta's observations! Thank you.

Unknown said...

Hey, Shasta! Thanks for the report! I have never volunteered at or worked the polls, so it was nice to hear about it from the perspective of a pool worker. Here in Virginia, things seemed to go very smoothly. My mother in law used the computer system for the first time and seemed to enjoy it, but I think VA is getting rid of the machines next year.