Joining the poll workers army at the front lines of Election Day

Joining the poll workers army at the front lines of Election Day

Pollsters set up pre-election voting machines in Provo, Utah in 2016.

George Frey / Getty Images


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George Frey / Getty Images

Pollsters set up pre-election voting machines in Provo, Utah in 2016.

George Frey / Getty Images

On November 6th, I will join nearly one million Americans who have voluntarily volunteered to help vote – for a minimal fee.

It is an extraordinary thing if you think about it. This army Groups for a single day (or more, if you include an early vote) to ensure that every American can exercise one of his fundamental rights. With all the talk of "fake" elections, cyberthreats, voter suppression and fraud, it is often those who have the most influence on your electoral experience at the forefront. And that responsibility has just become more complicated.

After reporting on the vote of NPR for 18 years, I decided it was time to work on the polls. Usually I tell about the story, but this year I write a book and had the time for it.

I started with an elective training program. In my class of 18, we were all but two women. We started the four-hour session to test some rules, especially for voters with disabilities. No, a voter who wants help does not need a note from his doctor. Yes, voters can get help reading and even marking their votes as long as the helper completes a voter support form rather than his boss, union representative or candidate. And do not tell them how to vote.

We then learned how to set up the place of election. Almost everything – ballot papers, machines, pens, tape, signs, etc. – is stored in a black metal cabinet, which should be kept closed on election night on election night. Our boss, the supreme judge, will have the keys. There will be diagrams showing exactly where we need to install the equipment, and the signs outside will show voters where to go and where the "No Electioneering Zone" begins (100 feet in front of the door).

My first reaction was, "Wow, there's so much to remember, how do I do it all?" My second reaction was that I should not mess up. All these steps are necessary to ensure that voters can vote simply, safely and fairly on election day.

Do we know what to do if there is a problem? Eg a faulty machine or a missing address? Do we know where to send you when you are in the wrong environment? Can we recognize the intimidation or fraud of voters? Do we feel welcome?

Most importantly, survey respondents need to know the rules. These vary from state to state, even from county to county. I live in Montgomery County, Md., Where it's okay to wear a campaign T-shirt or a hat in the polling place, as long as you just vote, not campaign. That is not the case everywhere. In Texas, it is an offense to wear a political T-shirt, button, or hat. (But if you're a Texas lawyer who can carry a gun, you can bring your gun on Election Day, which is a no in Maryland.)

In Texas, voters also need to present a government-issued photo ID to make a ballot. Voters in Maryland do not need an ID. You only have to enter your name, address and date of birth. But it can be confusing. There are exceptions to these two rules, and sometimes they change. A Judge in Missouri has just issued a last-minute decision to repeal the state's electoral code. Will every election worker in the country know this on Election Day?

The confusion of employees can lead to long conclusions and discourage those who have little time. Or even worse In North Carolina, an electoral worker gave 150 voters the wrong choice. They have to come back now if their votes are to count.

That's why recruiting and training electoral staff is so important. It's a challenge to find enough workers, so the polling stations started signing people months ago. Montgomery County needs 3,200 judges (as they are called there), but 4,500 recruits who know that some of them will get sick or fail at the last minute. Most places pay their employees a small fee as an incentive. My county is relatively generous – $ 210 to attend the training, set up equipment on election night and work about 15 hours on election day.

Montgomery County is also one of a growing number of places where 16- and 17-year-olds have the opportunity to help with elections to motivate young people to participate. In 2016, more than half of all nationally surveyed workers were over 60 years old. Surveys welcome the young people Energy and technological know-how.

Back in training, we mate to practice pushing a big voting machine over a ramp and out of the closet. Our coach asks us to be careful – do not tip over and do not hurt yourself. At this machine, voters put in their completed ballot papers to be counted. Then we remove foldable voting booths from blue boxes and try to assemble them. The most important tip: Make sure the spindly legs are properly secured to prevent the cabs from falling.

Maryland used to have an electronic touch-screen voting, but recently returned. This presents its own challenges. The ballots this year are three pages long. We practice making a mini-assembly line, tear off pages of voting sheets and paste them into Manila folders so that each voter gets a complete set. We're told to prepare at least 50 of these folders on election night so we're ready for the morning rush.

We have also set up an electronic voting machine, which is mainly used for voting with disabilities, for example, for those who are blind or have problems with the pen. We take turns trying to insert a complicated cable into the bottom of the machine. You need to squeeze the sides of the plug together for it to work.

Then we compile the electronic voting books that will be used to check-in voters. These voting books contain the district's voter registration database and are sealed with encrypted security labels. Almost everything here is locked or labeled to prevent tampering, and we must enter each seal in the Electronic Pollbook Integrity Report. We are NEVER asked to remove the red seal!

Each survey book also comes with a printer and a variety of wires and cables. All of these machines must be properly connected to work. "Do NOT connect a power cord for an electronic Pollbook to the printer", we are warned in the trainer's manual. "This seriously damages the printer." A poor surveyor has probably discovered this the hard way.

The voting books must also be linked together. So if a voter is checked in by an election employee, we all know. In this way nobody can vote twice. We also practice checking in voters and what to do if there is a problem. For example, if the information they give us does not match what's displayed on the screen. A voter may need to complete a voter update form if he has recently moved or changed his name. Or maybe they need a makeshift choice, which is counted after the voter information has been checked.

All other voters receive a so-called Woter Authority Card. You will need to hand this card over to another voter who will give you one of these Manila folders with the ballots. The voter then brings it to a booth, pens in the ovals next to his decisions and bring the full ballot to the scanning machine. Another co-ordinator will help them to get the full vote and their eligibility card. These cards need to be counted several times a day to make sure that the total number corresponds to the number of checked-in voters and the votes cast.

That's the way it should work. Rest assured, there are rules on how to deal with almost any problem imaginable, such as: B. torn or "spoiled ballots". Even threatening behavior in the polling station.

I have covered the elections since the controversial presidential elections of 2000 and realize that for some reason the laborer's work has become more complicated: to ensure that votes are properly counted, voters are not intimidated, nobody is cheating, and votes are in favor the members are accessible Anyone who wants to leave a ballot. The ultimate goal is to give people more confidence in the results.

I am reassured to know that every polling station has an experienced chief judge who has done this before and can tell us what to do when we are confused. I am also encouraged that one of the first instructions in my training manual is "Greetings to the Elector." Everything will probably work fine. It usually does.

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