Democracy in Action

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is the reflections of a poll worker during the 2020 general election. Specifically, it covers the writer's experiences during the early voting period leading up to the November 3rd election.

I was an election clerk for the 2020 November election. It was a memorable experience because of the circumstances surrounding it all. Analysts and pundits will have much to say about it as the days go by. This is an insider’s account from a lowly election clerk’s perspective.

 

The people who came to my poll station were diverse and interesting. Every voting age was represented. There were young, sometimes anxious first-time voters. There were elderly voters. There were handicapped individuals who needed accommodations. There were a few who seemed to be afraid that their vote would be rejected for some reason or another. Throughout the three week early-voting period I gained an up close perspective on my particular community.

 

This was my fourth election to work. The others had been laid back affairs with only a few voters here and there. This general election was different for two reasons. First, it involved a large turn out. Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic was raging. I had given some serious consideration to sitting this one out but I was lured by the attraction of an extra pay check to supplement my pension and the opportunity to do my civic duty. I convinced myself that I could do it safely with the appropriate personal protective equipment.

 

As I write this, I am quarantining. I am fortunate to have no symptoms.

 

I wore a facial covering over my mouth and nose under a face shield. This arrangement becomes very uncomfortable during a thirteen hour shift. My fellow poll workers, to their credit, wore facial coverings throughout. The majority of the voters who came through wore masks. There was just a small minority of people who came into the poll site without a mask. It was usually a husband and wife team, often with children, looking so smug as if they had some special knowledge that others do not possess. They are apparently immune to peer pressure and could care less if they spread their nasty germs to anyone else.

 

Masks have become fashion statements for some of us who do practice safety. Various masks of all styles were on display. Bandanas and scarfs, basically any kind of materials that could be tied around someone’s head. Many were patriotic, American flags for example. Some chose to promote their favorite sports team. Some adults proudly wear their favorite fictional comic book superheroes.

 

Some facial coverings by the ladies sparkled. A few were elaborately decorated with cosmetic jewels. One pretty woman showed up in a lace covering. I do not know how medically effective it could have been, but I had to tell her that it looked cool.

 

The style of a person’s face mask tells you something about them. The way they choose to wear it is revealing as well. Most people who came to vote kept their mask in a position that completely covered their nose and mouths. However, there’s always those who leave their nose uncovered. I tried to keep my distance from them.

 

One young man kept his mask down around his chin completely exposing himself and others. What’s the point in that?

 

Inevitably, there were a few who wore masks that promoted their favorite political candidate. That is called electioneering around here and it is not allowed at the voting site. The same rule applies to hats and shirts. Most people know that.

 

If someone showed up with a cap that said: Trump/Pence 2020, or Biden/Harris we would ask them to take it off. Voters who showed up in campaign shirts and masks were asked to turn them around. Very few people argued and most were cooperative. There always has to be the cranky individuals who stir the pot.

 

“You mean I can’t wear a Trump hat at the polls?” shouted one such nut. He was a rotund white guy with a cane. Maybe about fifty years of age.

 

“No sir, it’s against the rules,” said my polite colleague.

 

“ Oh so I don’t have freedom of speech. My constitutional rights don’t even matter here! I’m going to send letters to the election board about this!”

 

He raised a ruckus, voted and left. We were glad to see him go. I could care less if he complained to anyone about it.

 

The lines were long. The voting equipment remained consistently occupied throughout the whole nearly three weeks of early voting. It lifted my spirits to see so many people participating in American democracy. For the most part, people seemed joyful. Some brought their children to watch. There were numerous parents with their tiny infants. I felt compelled to talk to every baby that I saw.

 

October 30 was the last day of early voting. It was the most colorful day of all. Children and adults alike came from parties dressed in costumes. One little boy about five years old evoked ooohs and aahhs from the crowd. He was disguised as a cute elephant.

 

One lady stood before me dressed as a black mouse with whiskers and round ears on top of her head. She handed me her photo ID so I could check the database.

 

“I don’t believe this is you,” I stated. She seemed surprised at my pretensions.

 

“This picture doesn’t have ears,” I said pointing at the driver’s license photo.

 

She realized I was joking. “I forgot I had on these ears.” We got a chuckle out of it.

 

Of all the people who came in to vote there was a large contingent that I found particularly perplexing. I am referring to the folks who come to the polls who are apparently incapable of making political choices of their own. These people rely on the suggestion of others. It is often their spouse. Occasionally you see a woman asking the man next to her who she should select.

 

I should not, however, pick exclusively on women. Many male and female voters relied on what they called a “cheat sheet.” Usually this was a card sent from a particular party that tells the voter which boxes to check on the ballot. It is okay in our precinct as long as it is on paper. Cell phones are not allowed.

 

I witnessed one attractive young woman take out her phone as she stood at the machine. I moved to tell her that it was not permitted.

 

“I’m sorry ma’am. Cell phones are not allowed in the voting area,” I said politely.

 

“Oh, I was just going to email my friend so he could send me a PDF of who I’m supposed to vote for.”

 

I was rather taken aback. “Cell phones are not allowed here,” I repeated calmly.

 

She became indignant. “You mean I have to vote blind!”

 

“Yes, ma’am” was all I could say as I walked away.
 

My point is this, if you are going to vote then at least take some time to learn about the issues before you show up. You owe it to yourself and the rest of the country to be informed. If you need someone to tell you who to vote for then PLEASE DON’T VOTE!

 

 

There are three valuable lessons that I took away from this election experience. First, the people of my region are generally friendly and cooperative. That makes me feel better about the world in which we live. Second, the large, enthusiastic turn out is an indication that American democracy is still alive. Let us hope that trend continues.Third, election clerks work really hard during that election period. Be nice when you go to vote. We are there to help.


Submitted: November 05, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Rick Starbridge. All rights reserved.

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Comments

D. Thurmond aka JEF

What wonderful comments, and positive too. Reading this made my day! And you should know that some of us really think you people are great. A great Big thanks with happy-faces!

Fri, November 6th, 2020 8:39pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for reading my article. Please spread our good feelings. It's the voters I saw who made the experience so positive.

Fri, November 6th, 2020 1:38pm

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