Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Working at the Polls - September 18, 2012

So, I had my first experience working at the precinct. Since it was a special election to vote on an amendment to the Alabama constitution, I did not expect a high voter turnout and I was correct in my assessment. The total number of voters for the day was 330.  At 11:00 a.m. the count was 108. Although it was a slow day, it was a steady day as there was almost always one person voting. It seems like when one person left, another one would arrive.

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. which really wasn’t that much earlier than my normal wake-up time, although I did not have the privilege of hitting snooze. I took a shower, grabbed my things and headed out the door within the hour, arriving at the precinct at 6:00 a.m. I had baked some pumpkin muffins the night before and brought those in for everyone. The inspector for our place brought in some sausage biscuits and others brought snacks as well. We got everything set up and signed and got ourselves sworn in and then opened the polls at precisely 7:00 a.m.  We had one lady waiting on us to open the doors.

Overall the day went really well. The people that I worked with were all in their 70s and 80s and were nice, at times a little annoying but overall nice. My biggest peeve I think was that when they were in the middle of a conversation and a voter walked in they would just keep on talking. I was the only person to say hello to the voter coming in the door. Unless, of course, they knew the person and then they would talk so loud and wouldn’t quit talking which would make it frustrating for the next person to come in because they would be ready to vote but couldn’t get up to the table for all the fellowshipping taking place. 

I had been told by the inspector that we would be ordering Steak-Out for lunch which I was looking forward to since I really like Steak-Out. Then when it came time to order, the inspector suggested Mullins – a place I’m pretty sure he eats at every day. His wife passed away earlier this year and I guess it’s as close to home cooked as it gets for when, which is just terrible. I said I was going to order from Steak-Out because I am not the biggest fan of Mullins. It’s one of those greasy joints I have to be in the mood for. So, in the end everyone ended up ordering Steak-Out. 

My precinct is at Jackson Way Baptist Church and they have a day care there and a kitchen staff which I assume cooks for the daycare. At any rate, one of the kitchen workers, Ruby, brought us some ice cream cake for dessert; it was quite yummy. 

The afternoon seemed to go by a bit faster as there were more voters coming in, especially when people started to get off work. We didn’t have too many crazy situations for which I was thankful. We did have one guy vote who we were all pretty sure was drunk – yes, drunk Americans can vote as long as they have proper ID! We had three ballots that had to be spoiled, or thrown out, because people messed up on their voting. We had a few people on the inactive voters list and had to ask them to update their information – all of whom said they had voted within the past year. That inactive voters list is kind of convoluted.
When the polls closed at 7:00 p.m. we took down the signs and started putting everything together. In general, it should have been an easy process but at times it was so frustrating I thought I might lose my patience. All of the people I worked with have worked an election before and it should have been simple for them. To say I had to take over more than once is an understatement. We finally got everything sealed up and in the trunk of the inspector’s car and off to the courthouse. 

Here are some observations from my day:
  • An ID is required to vote in Alabama and while the majority of people come with ID in hand, you would be amazed at how many people walk up and then pull out their ID – which always takes a LONG time.
  • It is annoying when people point to their name on the voter registration page – patience please! The lady working the pages is older and the pages kind of stick together.
  • A lot of people have no idea where to put there ballot once they walk up to the machine
  • Some people don’t know how to draw a line on their ballot to vote.
  • A lot of people have complained about the fact that we are having a special election– spending too much money – and that the amendment vote should have been on the ballot in November.
  • I became increasingly frustrated at my co-workers who would, instead of making a simple phone call to the board of registrars, would instead hash out a situation for about five minutes – loudly!
  • Some of the workers left to go let their dogs out or check on the house or pick up the paper, all of which are not allowed. I’m 100% sure you are supposed to stay at your polling location throughout the entire time the polls are open.
As mentioned, it was a good day and it provided a nice break from the norm. I’m really looking forward to working in November because I have no doubt there will be a big turnout and that should provide for lots of interesting blogging material.


Erika said...

Your voting location is super handy!
Glad you had a good day.
I hope the drunk voter walked there :)

Melissa said...

sounds like an interesting day. I never really thought about a day in the life of a poll worker :) Can't wait to hear about your experience in November :)

Jackie said...

I am super pumped to hear about the November election. If they got on your nerves during this amendment vote holy cow they are going to grate on your nerves for the presidential election.

Margaret Stabler said...

I worked a presidential election. Once was enough for me!

Alison said...

Interesting! Did you have to take time off of work or do they allow the time? I miss sick leave and vacation time!