WHY POLL WORKERS ARE HEROES!
today at 2:39 am
I have never waited for 2.5 hours to vote prior to 2020. I decided after hearing incessant claims that this election would not be fair if we voted by mail, that I would brave the PANDEMIC and vote in person. However, in my mind, I was sure that it might be best if I voted as soon as early voting commenced in my county. I was under the impression that very few people would consider doing what I had planned on day one.
WOW! Was I wrong!
When I arrived at the polling place, a huge building that reminded me of an aircraft hanger, I felt relieved knowing that when I did enter the building, there would be more than enough room to ensure social distancing between voters.
The line extended for a good five blocks within the compound itself which provided for ample parking. Any person who exited their car to enter the line had to wear a mask. Chairs were set up every one hundred feet or so for those that needed to take a seat and possibly rest their legs. Everyone I encountered in the line, whether they were in front or behind me appeared pleasant and seemed eager to chat to kill the time. We all knew that we’d be in that line at least for a couple of hours. I noted to a poll worker who was stationed outside near the line that I was upset I hadn’t arrived at the poll at 9 a.m. when it opened. The poll worker in his bright orange striped jacket laughed and said, “It wouldn’t have mattered. We had this line the moment we opened and it’s been this long all day.” That’s when I realized that the 2020 election would indeed be unique.
An NPR reporter approached a number of people in the queue asking the same question, “Why did you decide to come out on the very first day of early voting – almost six weeks before November 3rd?” I heard the same answer over and over with variance in the verbiage used but essentially similar in message, “We’re here to take back our country… to ensure that democracy is preserved.” As the line moved, we couldn’t help but notice that overhead were helicopters from various news organizations. The extraordinary turnout had attracted the interest of the fourth estate.
From the time I parked my car in the compound’s lot, it took me over 2 and a 1/4 hours to finally approach one of the three poll workers, all wearing masks and sitting behind large plastic shields, who validated one’s registration. In my case, another judge was called over to ask, “Sir, did you request a vote-by-mail ballot.” I answered truthfully with a question, “Yes, is that a problem?” The judge looked at the screen before the poll worker to ascertain my name, address, and voter ID number. I wasn’t aware that every voter on the poll has a multi-digited number assigned to them. My request for a vote-by-mail ballot was then canceled by that supervising judge. I was then asked to sign both a computer screen and a piece of paper for signature verification. It was only then after adhering to all of that protocol did I receive a paper ballot with an envelope. “Sir, fill out the ballot and upon completion make sure you place it in the envelope, seal it and then put it in the metal receptacle for completed ballots prior to exiting the polling place.” I was about to grab a felt pen that was sitting on the reception table when another poll worker stated, “No, leave that one there sir, I will give you one that has been sanitized. Make sure you turn the pen into the poll worker when you deposit your ballot.”
I then turned and went to one of the stands that afforded me the privacy of filling out a ballot privately. Each stand was a good ten feet from another which ensured that social distancing was being followed. A small vial of paste was available at each stand should one elect to use that instead of licking the privacy envelope.
Upon completing my ballot, I then placed it in the strongbox for the collection of executed ballots and handed the pen to a worker wearing gloves and a mask. I then took advantage of a hand sanitizer and grabbed a sticker proudly announcing, “I Voted Today.”
As I walked out of the polling place, I noticed a reporter from the NBC TV station about to file a LIVE stand-up for the five p.m. newscast. The poll had officially closed 3o minutes before but as one of the workers declared during our time in the line, that anyone who arrived prior to the 4:30 p.m. cut-off, their effort to cast a ballot would be honored no matter how long it took. As I headed towards my car, I could see that the line was as long as it had been when I first arrived….maybe even a bit longer.
I could hear one poll watcher tell another, “You need not worry, we will be paid till the last voter has filled out their ballot. Who knew it would be this kind of a day?”
So to all the poll workers who are making a difference in keeping democracy alive and well, I say thank you as you GO DO GOOD to ensure that America remains the land of the free. If you can, vote in person, it truly is safe – but whatever option you choose – make sure your voice is heard – VOTE