Providing a fair and honest election to my precinct
Yesterday, I was an election worker in Kentucky's General Election. My day began when the alarm rang at 4:15 AM. I left the house at 5:15 AM and drove a couple of miles to the local church that is the polling place for our precinct. Other workers arrived at about the same time, and we got the voting machines ready to go, tables arranged, sample ballots posted, and "Vote Here" signs installed outside.
At 6:00 a.m., we had our first voters. The next 12 hours went by fairly quickly, with a steady stream of people passing through. Usually, we had only one or two voters at a time, but at times, we had up to a dozen people waiting to vote. In all, about 1/3 of the registered voters in our precinct cast a ballot.
Due to a shortage of election workers, we had a three-person crew. We are supposed to have four workers -- clerk, Republican judge, Democrat judge, and sheriff. Since we didn't have a sheriff, we had to share that job between us.
Voter registration irregularities
We did have a few registration irregularities. We had several people who had moved from the precinct but had not changed their registration to their new precinct. It's illegal for them to vote in a precinct where they don't live, so we had to fill out paperwork for them and send them to their proper polling place.
In another case, a wife was listed as a legal voter in the book, but the husband was not listed, even though he had voted and resided in the precinct for years, just as his wife has. The county clerk allowed him to vote, but it required some phone calls and paperwork. The man was irritated and I understand why, but it certainly wasn't our fault.
In another case, a voter was incorrectly listed so we couldn't find his name. After a phone call to the County Clerk's office, we learned that he was listed with his middle name as his last name and his last name as his first name. He was able to vote under his incorrectly-listed name, and he filled out a new voter registration card to change his name so it will be correct next time (we hope.)
Problems with voting
An elderly gentleman requested the old voting machine. He couldn't hear very well. When he came out of the booth, we election workers didn't think that we had heard the bell on his machine ring (indicating that his vote was cast.) He asserted that he wouldn't have heard the bell if it did ring, but he had certainly pushed the "Vote" button. We commented that the lights next to the names on the screen were still flashing which indicated his vote was not complete. He insisted again that he had voted (!) so we didn't press the issue further. However, we don't think that his vote was recorded.
Workers aren't allowed to enter the booth with the voter, so it's hard to determine exactly what the problem is in some cases. One of the last voters of the day used the new voting machine and somehow managed to press buttons in a sequence that looped him back through the ballot several times. We tried to talk him through it from outside the booth. When the ballot has been successfully cast and the votes recorded, a success message and the American flag are displayed on the screen. He finally got that screen, but he was not satisfied that his vote had been counted.
Each of these incidents had to be recorded on the Sheriff's report, and some of them happened while we were pretty busy with voters, so it would have been good to have that fourth worker. Our precinct was one of several that did not have a full crew. I don't know why they can't find enough election workers. Is it the long day?
Following correct election procedures
Some voters seemed a bit miffed that they had to show an ID, but that's the rule unless an election worker will sign that he/she personally knows the person's identity.
I felt that all the election workers at our precinct were following regulations and procedures as best we could. We were going by the book. No one was trying to stretch or bend the rules or influence the voters. We were doing our best to provide a fair and honest election to the residents of our precinct.
After the polls were closed at 6:00 p.m., it took us about half an hour to print out the tapes on the machines, close them and shut them down, and pack up all the election materials. Then the other judge and I had to take the tapes, the memory units from the machines, and the voter books and other papers to the County Clerk's office.
One thing I learned is that it might be a good idea to check your voter registration at the courthouse once in a while, even if you've been voting regularly and haven't made any changes of address.
It was a long and tiring day, but it was good to participate in the exercise of democracy. I enjoyed it.
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