My first position was a poll sheriff. That position was eventually done away with in each polling site, and I moved to judge. I also worked some elections as a clerk. I would do the job again.
It’s an enjoyable way to pass a day, you get paid, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you helped in the important process of electing our leaders. I worked every election from 2000 up through 2004. After that, I made the step from working inside the polls to be a Precinct Committeeperson and then a Ward Chair.
I stepped out for a few years, but I recently reassumed a Ward Chairmanship in Decatur Township. It’s a different way to serve, but you’re still involved in the process of helping to recruit poll workers and make sure they know what they are doing.
I never have served as an inspector in the polling site, but I know the job isn’t easy. It takes a person that can follow step-by-step instructions and who can keep organized. When I did serve inside the polling place, I took my job seriously. While there were times you could grab a bowl of chili and maybe even read a book, your job is to make sure that everyone who appears and is legally able to do so at your precinct has an easy experience casting their ballot.
Most poll workers meet the night before to set up the polling site, and there is a structured way to do it. There are set policies and procedures that are not optional. They are to be adhered to at all times, and, while it might be easy to cut corners, that’s the quickest way to making a critical mistake.
When my alarm would go off at 4:30 a.m. on Election Day, I had to be ready to go when I worked the polls. A quick hop in the shower, a bowl of cereal, and a car ride later you are there in the pitch black ready to open the polls at 6:00 a.m.
That’s when the inspector unlocks the door and yells, per regulation, “The polls are now open!”
There’s usually a rush early on. The people waiting outside for you to open at 6:00 a.m. are usually not so patient. The day typically progresses from there.
When I did work the polls, I can tell you that I never disenfranchised anyone. If someone was not on our poll book, we did the best job that we could to find out why from the Election Board. Usually, the problem was the voter’s problem. He had not voted in four years and didn’t know his precinct moved. She didn’t update her voter information after she moved from Michigan. People misread a map.
If we ever touched a ballot more than we were supposed to under the regulations, we were supposed to fill out a form about assisting a voter. Once we handed the ballot to the voter, it’s officially his or her ballot now. There are contingencies for everything. Ballots where people make mistakes or that are defective are called “Spoiled ballots”, and there are specific ways inspectors have to deal with them to make sure that ballot can never be run through a machine.
Before one poll worker can leave, the ballots must balance with the number distributed originally. There are all sorts of official seals that require the signature of all those working. These are safeguards. Tons of documents are signed. Everything…including the official pens must be counted.
Extraordinary care is taken to make sure EVERY vote counts and every ballot…voted and unvoted…is catalogued and accounted for. In Marion County, the Republican judge accompanies the inspector to one of the drop off sites for all the election materials. They wait in line and cannot leave until everything balances.
My point is that Donald Trump and Mike Pence calling our election system rigged is so ridiculous it doesn’t even really deserve merit. Calling the system rigged is calling out all those hardworking poll workers and Election day workers who work hard for low pay. It’s a slap in the face.
Truth be told, rigging an election in Marion County would mean rigging over 600 polling precincts and more than 3,000 election workers.
So, when you go to the polls on November 8, rest easy. Your vote will count and be counted.