Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tales of a beleaguered Poll Worker- Part II

Well, I am home in bed with ice cream by 10 pm- a record. My shoulders and back are nowhere near as sore as they were the last time I did this. That is thanks to the ease of the computer voting. It makes reconciling the votes at the end of the evening a breeze and I didn't have to bend over ripping ballots off a sheet all day.

After returning from lunch, we had a busy period. In fact, we had steady voters all day. I am not sure how many voters there were on the roster, but as of close tonight, we had over 500 people who voted on the machines and an additional 400 who came in with absentee ballots or who voted provisionally.

In our county, the absentee ballots that had been sent in by this last weekend were sorted and counted. They will be run through the scanning machines tonight. The computer chips will be reconciled with the paper trail from the machines tonight, the absentees that were turned in today will be gone through within the next day or so and the provisional ballots will be reconciled and dealt with I believe within 10 days of the election. That gives you some idea of how things work here.

I have decided that I like the computers. The biggest concern was that you don't get a receipt to take with you when you leave. The print out is locked into the printer, which is like a big roll of register tape like you see at a cash register. But you don't have a paper receipt when you vote on a regular ballot. All you get is the stub. And most people throw that away. All told, only 12 voters in my precinct opted to vote paper ballot. This option will end soon. The paper trail concern was largely because of what people have heard and learned from Florida and Ohio as well as other parts of the state that use electronic voting. I am told we are working to make paper receipts possible.

Nurse Ratchet loosened up in the afternoon. At one point she was working with a guy over a provisional ballot. When she was said and done, she comes over to me, hands me his business card and tells me all about him. Then she informs me that she was trying to "set me up". I thought it was pretty funny, actually. By that point, we had figured out a system and our rolls and responsibilities were more settled. It takes a while for people to learn to work together. And we had figured out that our respective trainings were not done well. For starters, my training focused on setting up the new machines and knowing how they operate. An hour and a half of that last week, and I was ready to scream. I work with computers, so for me that was no big deal. But for most people, that was a big deal. My Precinct Inspector (Ratchet) had a training that focused almost exclusively on the paper work aspect of things. So no one was on the same page and everyone thought they were the in-house expert. So our county needs to fix its poll worker training. This is important for voters. We as poll workers decide if you vote and if your vote counts because we are the first people you encounter when you get to the polls. So good training is important.

Another common problem we ran into today was with absentee voters. Many voters are listed on our rosters as absentee. But they claim they never received their ballots. In cases like these, they had to vote provisionally. We suspect that many people confuse the ballots with junk mail and toss them away without opening them. So around election time, BE CAREFUL about what you throw away!

And for my readers that remembered my white supremacists voter, the one who showed up with the Confederate flag on his hat and who wanted to make sure blacks and Jews didn't win elections? Mr. Dixie? Well he was back. I determined this time that he is illiterate. He didn't vote for half the stuff on the ballot because he didn't understand it and he said so. And the irony is that our African American poll clerk helped him out this time. And Mr. Dixie was perfectly polite about it. I realized that this man is unfortunate because it is his illiteracy that pushes him to think as he does. It creates insecurity that breeds frustration and then hate. And the only thing that makes him important, in his eyes at least, is that he is male and white. Mr. Dixie can be redeemed if someone would take the time to listen to him respectfully and then talk to him reasonably. My guess is that he gets written off most of the time and thus, he feels inferior. He didn't cause any trouble; he wanted to follow the rules. He showed up to vote. And he has to get credit for that.

I also have to give a big thank you to another character from the last election, my former fellow poll worker and local civil rights attorney. She came into vote around 6pm and did a Starbucks run for is. That was a lifesaver, and probably why I am so wired now! She remembered well how tired we all were by 6 pm the last time around and did us this favor. Random acts of kindness!

All in all, it wasn't a bad day. But the fun, hopeful energy of the Presidential election was not there. This is, after all, a boring special election. And my party girl, civil rights attorney who had me singing "Shake Rattle and Roll" during the last election wasn't there to joke with. But seriously I think we as a state have to really reconsider the idea of referendum voting. The issues are way too complex and the system has been hijacked by special interests. The good part is that I got to see several acquaintances that I hadn't seen in ages and I made a few new friends.

At that is a wrap. Ratchet and I returned all the ballots, printers and papers to the local Court House. And now, this day is done. It has been long and now, I'd like to call it a night.


Dr. Strangelove said...

Thanks for being a pollworker, US West. And thanks also for the great stories. The "Mr. Dixie" story was especially fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Now this is funny ;)