Poll Worker Musings, Or How To Write A Rave Only

What to love and hate about living in East Greenwich this week.

Finally. You may be disappointed, elated or indifferent to the outcome (and I know I am all three in varying degrees) but Election Day has, thankfully, come and gone. This year, I decided (or, more accurately, was coerced by a neighbor – thanks, Jeff) to take the final leap and work as a canvasser at Swift Gym.

Here are some of the things I discovered, thought or saw in the 14 some hours I spent at the polling station in no particular order of a rant or rave because frankly, the whole day was a rave for me – even things I normally rant about (like long lines or bad manners) seemed bearable:

  • Election Day is truly a marvel of our government. Regardless of your political persuasion, the fact is we have this incredible system by which we have an automatic and bloodless revolution every four years to pick the leader of our country. Before you respond, think about our system for a moment in the more violent backdrop of recent elections in, say, Syria or Libya.
  • Voting, like coffee, is a morning activity. Whether it is a side effect of the new 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. voting hours or indicative of our busy schedules these days, there was a surge from the moment the doors opened until 11:30 a.m. After that, people came in a slow but steady trickle. Things really died down after 5 p.m., which surprised me as I thought we would get a last-minute rush of people scrambling from work or reacting to exit polls before the doors closed.
  • The 14-hour shift went quickly today, but I bet time really drags for those volunteering on less popular voting days like primaries. 
  • You are never too old to exercise your right to vote. People came in walkers and wheelchairs. One man told me this was his 18th presidential election!
  • The young also believe in the system. I loved hearing some newly-minted adult coming in and proudly pronouncing, “I’m a first-time voter!”
  • It was frustrating that some of these virgin voters’ first introduction to voting was a system that did not work as smoothly as it could. A large number were only able to cast a ballot in the presidential election because although they thought they had registered to vote at the DMV, the paperwork was never sent through. Lesson learned? Register directly with one of the myriad of online sites.
  • “I Voted” stickers are as popular as ever.
  • The polling station is a great place to catch up with friends and neighbors that I normally don’t get to see.
  • Despite several law-expert studies which state that you have a better chance of being hit by lightening or winning Mega Millions than discover an incidence of voter fraud in the U.S., the possibility of faux ballots looms large in voters’ minds. Which is just as well because it is these people who help to keep the Board of Elections voter books up-to-date, informing us of those who have moved on literally or to a more celestial place.
  • If you lose a wallet on Election Day in East Greenwich, it will be returned.
  • Ditto for a cell phone.
  • Ditto redux for car keys.
  • More than a few people do not know what district they are supposed to vote in. But almost all were also very good sports about having shown up at the wrong place, even when they waited on line (yes, there were lines!)
  • Being virtually under news lockdown was a mentally healthy way for me to spend Election Day.
  • Hardly anyone had an issue with the new requirement to show ID. The few people who did not support the law protested in the most American way possible – they exercised their constitutional right not to show any ID. It is questionable whether their votes were ultimately counted, but it was inspiring to see people take a stand for what they believed in.
  • Some people are very angry when they come in to vote. Luckily, they were in the minority.
  • People take pride in their signature when they write their names on the ballot application. This is not the same signature they use when scribbling their John Hancock on a credit card receipt. Voting trumps spending!
  • The manicure hue de jour is bullet grey. Not a rant or rave, just a whaddyaknow realization.
  • Husbands and wives like to vote together.
  • The configuration of the polling station is not random. Everything, from the location of the posters on the doors to the tables to the voting stations, has been thought out and laid out in the Board of Canvassers manual.
  • It is impressive the time people take when voting. Some read the literature posted on the walls, many bring crib notes, others deliberate for a long time. I clocked one woman at 17 minutes and 32 seconds.
  • Take Your Kids To The Polling Station should be a national holiday, like taking children to work days. That said, many parents did bring their future presidents, senators and congress people with them. Some were bored, some were too young to understand what was going on, some were interested in the process. But chances are that every one of them will vote when they are old enough.
  • I miss the PTG bake sales that were the enticement to bring children to vote when I was a kid.
  • Call me a Luddite, but I also still miss the old lever Superman-style voting booth.
  • We may live in an age of machines, but the human element is still an integral part of the voting process. As canvassers, we needed to make sure we were signing in John T. Doe and not his son John B. Doe. Some voters made mistakes on their ballots and needed a redo – which, by the way, is allowed.
  • It was surprising that a fair number of people came in just to vote in the presidential election. It may be that they did not get their registration done in time to qualify for the local vote. But some seemed to think it wasn’t important, despite the fact that the people elected to hold office on the town and school councils as well as our state senators and reps have more impact on our day-to-day lives than whoever is residing in the White House.
  • Election Day cost both parties collectively over $5 billion, according to an estimate from the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Even when the lines were long, everyone was in good we’re-all-in-this-together spirits, no matter who they were voting for.

That last point, which is truly a rave, is what I am going to try and keep with me over the next four years. 

EGresident November 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I would like to say, 6 people working the polling tables but only 2 taking names, 2 lines with a sign on the table that you could not see until you got to the table, and poll workers who were confused and considered elderly make for a poor voting experience. Lets let high school seniors work the polls..Community service hours and learning about all aspects of voting is a great idea.
Alicarn November 10, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Having voted at Frenchtown School for years, this year I voted at the new Cole Middle School, which still has that new car smell. The lines were a lot longer than I had expected, especially for the A-L voters - me - but I was glad to see that people came out to vote. At 2:45 or so, I was voter 914. On primary day, at almost 8pm, I was voter 161 which was disappointing. Lisa, I agree about the voting booths. There was something about those big black curtained booths that made voting feel official or special. I miss them!
La Dolce Vita November 10, 2012 at 04:55 PM
The new electronic read out machines were supposed to eliminate the mechanical breakdown of the older machines. Something in these still does 'move', so I guess they can malfunction as well. The high school has had no lines since I have been voting there. I do wish the General Assembly would reverse their decision and have school on voting days. Schools should not be closed on voting day. Makes the public school year, this year, two days longer. Vote early & vote often.
Roxanna November 10, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Voting at Cole was less than a good experience. The map that told you if you were in the right place was posted where many who entered the building could not see it and at least 6 people waited 50-60 minutes only to be told that they were in the worng place. there were 6 people at the table, but only 2-4 could actually do anything as there was but one book each for A-L and M-Z. The other two workers could certainly have canvassed the long lines to make sure that everyone was in the correct place, but did not. Some changes are really in order.


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