Working the Polls

A few years ago, a friend posted on Facebook that she would be working for the county elections office and that they needed just one more
person to work on election day at the local vote center. Being the “helper” person that I am, I contacted her and said, “I’ll do it!”

Little did I know that it’s not just the one 15-hour day that I was signing up for. There is online training and in-person training and a pre-election meeting and then the actual voting day. But I had committed, and I was proud to be participating in what I consider to be an important process.

From my research, it seems only 72% of the population who are eligible have registered to vote. And just a little over 55% of those registered voters turned up for the presidential election in 2016. Compare that percentage to other countries and the number is really low. Chile, Austria and Belgium, for example, have had over 90% voter turn out since 1960. I’m curious as to why we don’t do better.

I’ve worked at the vote center for every election since that first time. At the primaries in August, I was reminded why I continue to spend my valuable time to participate.

Late in the day a woman entered the voting area, excited and wide-eyed. I guessed her to be in her early 30s and of hispanic descent. She approached the check-in table where she was asked for her identification. Providing it, she said, with a huge grin, “This is my first time voting! Do I have to pay?”

Her face was not concerned. She was prepared to pay to vote. Isn’t that something.

As a vote center worker, one is required to be diplomatic and generic with language.

My response? “No, ma’am, you don’t have to pay. Voting is your right and a privilege. Thank you for being here.”