Election Day Adventures
How do you vote? Do you ask for an Absentee Ballot when you know you will otherwise have a busy day on Election Day? Are you a Permanent Absentee voter because it is difficult for you to get to a polling place or a work schedule that makes it “iffy” that you will get to a poll? Do you make a ritual of going to your neighborhood polling place, sample ballot in hand? I’m in the middle. Permanent Absentee voter. Why? Because I’m usually working on the election on Election Day.
Tuesday was Election Day. I was at the first polling location by 5:30 a.m., yet, I’m not an Election Clerk or an Inspector. I’m what Los Angeles County calls a “Coordinator”, a person responsible for 12 to 15 Precinct locations. This was not my first time. I’ve done this a number of times for the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles. I receive training but I don’t need to be an expert in everything. Yes, it is a long, tiring, yet rewarding day. Yes, sometimes there are “issues” with Poll Workers or Voters. Yes, I use my own car. Yes, I get paid. No, I don’t get to select my area of assignment, although I normally have been placed close to my residence.
The car was loaded and ready for all situations. A folding table and two chairs just in case one of the locations was locked and we had to set up in the parking lot. We call that an “Emergency Opening”. County-issued cell phone charged and on, ready for the 5:30 a.m. check in call. Notebook listing all the locations and workers along with check-off sheets to both confirm that essentials were posted or handled or existed and to let the training staff know what to emphasize when they train for the next election. Sample ballots for each location and extra non-location specific supplies. Map of the locations, all within a short distance of each other, and the car GPS set for each location. Snacks and water, in case it became so busy I wouldn’t have time for lunch. Whew! Better to be well prepared than not. Right?
There were updates to the roster of voters that needed to be at each location prior to opening at 7 a.m. So I was on the move early. I found the first location in an Assisted Living facility. No one there yet and nothing set up. Next, a nursing home where two precincts were co-located. One precinct was completely set up, except for ballots and vote recorders which may not be left overnight. The other precinct was partially set up. And there, in front, was one of the poll workers. Without an Inspector there he didn’t know whether he was allowed inside. The door was unlocked. I gave him the updates and allowed him inside. After that it was run, run, run and I made it to all the facilities by 6:45, making recommendations along the way for the best placement of various items. A park with two locations, a senior apartment building, a VFW Hall, a church, an elementary school, a continuation high school. Some locations held two precincts; others had only one.
Once the Polls opened at 7 a.m. my next task was to slow down and visit each location to go over the two-page check-off sheet, noting what was not done correctly and making adjustments. Moving voting booths for better traffic flow. Turning the booth for voters using a wheel chair so that they have more privacy. Making sure that the sample ballots, in all ten languages, are on the check in table. This visit took 10 minutes or so for each location. At one spot the ABB – Audio Ballot Booth, a large folding piece which houses the equipment to allow someone to vote by listening to the choices and pressing large buttons – had a faulty cord. As the Coordinator I was the one responsible for going to the mobile service center and picking up a piece of replacement equipment. Did that. It worked. I moved on. By noon I had visited all of the sites assigned to me, things seemed calm, and I was actually able to go to a restaurant for lunch with my notebook in hand, reviewing all the paperwork and making notes where anything had been left out.
The afternoon was much the same: visiting locations, answering questions, assisting. I was lucky this election. Only one piece of equipment needed to be changed and no issues developed with upset voters or staff. By 6:30 p.m. it was time to pick the location where I would end the day, finalize paperwork, and organize it for return to the County.
The 8 p.m. closing, organizing, packing, and counting went smoothly. We don’t actually count votes, but we do account for each ballot: voted, provisional, unused, voided, and spoiled. By 9:15 we were packed up and I headed to the service center to turn in my materials, which I’m allowed to do only after all of my assigned locations have called to let me know they have completed packing up and are leaving the polling location.
Interesting day. They say that if you rest you rust. I don’t think I’m going to need any WD40 for a while.
Every Day Is A Good Day. VJ