Yesterday was a long day. I started out at 5 a.m. and made it home just before 10 p.m. — after a stop for dinner. I covered six precincts, and helped out once in a seventh. For my job, the big rush was 6 a.m. until 8 a.m. and then again from 6:30 p.m. on. Basically, I was a troubleshooter. I’d circulate from precinct to precinct checking every machine was working and every poll worker had what she or he needed. I never stayed more than a few minutes at each precinct station before I’d drive on to the next. Once I finished a circuit I started again. Occasionally, one of the precinct clerks would have a problem and I’d drive right over. We all stayed busy. Every precinct had good turnout. All six precincts had steady streams of voters though there was an odd lull during lunch though.
There where no major problems in my group. We had a few rejected ballots — almost always due to voter error. They’d mark outside an oval or vote twice in the same race. The voting machine type used in Polk County are susceptible to pencil leads falling in the scan slot, but we didn’t have that problem.
Josh has a picture of the counter of one of the machines we use. He participated in the Polling Place Photo Project. Most of my precincts looked much the same as his. I considered adding to the project, but I figured the day would be hectic enough even without pictures. I also didn’t want to worry about adding more gear to the many supplies and machine parts I would carry around all day. Finally, I was conspicuous enough in my red Supervisor of Elections polo shirt. Standing there with a camera I didn’t need.
Often voters looking to vent would target me. Believe me, I agree the amendments are confusing. I wouldn’t have wanted to explain them even if I was allowed. We offered pamphlets in English and Spanish that listed the full text of each amendment, but some were upset it didn’t tell them which way to vote. I couldn’t relate to that. It really isn’t that hard to spend some time deciding how to vote before you come to the poll.
The other complaint concerned being in the wrong precinct. People would march up to a poll worker and announce that he or she had moved, but wanted to vote in their old precinct. The worker would gently explain to do so would be a felony. The voter wasn’t out-of-luck as we had people to help them find the correct precinct.
We only had one person who was upset about that law. He rushed in to vote at 7 p.m. and told the worker his driver’s license had the wrong address. He had moved over a year ago. But neither his new address or the license address was in that particular precinct. We found out he was in that precinct because his parents lived there and he had voted there years ago.
We did have one happy moment. The 18 year-old who was voting in her first election. Her very proud parents following close behind. Obviously, voting is genetic.
Photo illustration by George Fox