I mentioned in a previous blog post, I became a Poll Worker for this Election Day. I really didn’t know quite what to expect, would there be riots? Would there be voter intimidation? Would there be long lines? Would people be nice? I admit I was absolutely terrified on what Election Day was to bring. It was not helped by the endless media coverage of voter intimidation in some states and our Mayor issuing Sheriff Deputies so people could vote. I admit I came very close to backing out because I was scared, my anxiety was horrible. I personally feel like I haven’t slept in a week. I couldn’t even paint Monday because I was so nervous. However, Sunday night I received a call from my Poll Manager to see one if I was still interested and to see if I was available to help set the Polling Station up on Monday night. I said yes to both items.
I arrived to the Polling Station around 6pm Monday night. I quickly realized I was the youngest poll worker. I quickly began moving chairs, arranging tables because the faster that happened, the faster I could go home and get some sleep (or try to sleep). Once the tables were all set, we slowly moved the machines into place. In Georgia, the voting machines are giant iPads (11×17) and HP printers, just like the ones at work. When we got the okay to unpack everything, someone from the Board of Elections came by and clipped the locks off of every case. I started unpacking printers and setting them up. I am an anti-cord knotting person, I neatly tied everything and put all the cords through the center (OCD at its finest). The printers were easy to setup because they are the same ones I beat at work. It took use about an hour and a half to set everything up. We were lucky we could set up the night before, many polling precincts are unable to do that. We could do everything but we were able to setup 90% of the polling station. I could not even imagine only having one hour to set 11 machines, put up signs, and map out social distancing with sanitation. Even with the extra time we were allotted we still were cutting it very close to opening. A lot of things are done in the morning, such as taking the Oath of a Poll Worker, ensuring the correct signage is in the correct place. Many people don’t realize that when the polls open at 7am a Polling Station only needs one functioning station to be classified as opened. We had 11 stations ready to-go at 7am on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning, we all arrived before 6am, if you are not on-site by 6am you are unable to be a Poll Worker. When we arrived we did have several people in line waiting for us to open the doors. The Oath of a Poll Worker was administered and we completed the setup of the machines (clipping the tags and turning on all the machines). My Poll Manager asked me to work the line, I grabbed the paper register and started walking down the line at 6:30am. I wanted to ensure everyone had the opportunity to vote and checking the line, we saved a lot of people a lot of time. Imagine getting to the front of the line only to be told you were at the wrong polling station. When we opened the polls at 7am the wait was well over two hours. I remember at one point thinking, it must be 10am I looked at my watch it was 7:32am. I felt like I was in this alternate reality where time literally stopped.
We eventually got the line down to nothing after 11:30am. It pretty much stayed like that the rest of the day. I had hoped the line would be that long all day, it was not. I had great hope for a spectacular showing in Chatham county but we only had 53% turn out rate (actually casted ballots.) The precinct I was at we had 695 votes cast with over 1700 votes either early or absentee. The voter turnout was 74.8% which I thought was pretty good, I was wishing the whole county would be like that.
I am very happy I was a poll worker because it gave me a very nice break from Social Media. When everyone else was glued to their phones or TVs for the first results, I was packing up the equipment and double checking math. All the numbers had to match, the numbers from all the machines, the numbers from the registration pads, the actual ballots, provisional and emergency ballots all needed to match. After 15 hours the numbers are very hard and it took a couple of times to get it right. We did and after a very long day, we were released to go home.
After my first Election I am still very excited and can’t wait for the next one. Personally, I am extremely lucky to able, to be a part of this Election in a small way. My friends have all said, “Wow that is awesome, I could never do that.” Trust me you can. You also get paid for it, not like a normal volunteer gig and you are protecting one of the most powerful weapons we have – our right to VOTE!