Saturday, October 09, 2004

God Bless Election Pollworkers

Attended training this week to be a first-time poll worker for the Nov 2 elections. As in many past elections, I applied to work for the Registrar of Voters (ROV) in this important election, and was pleasantly surprised when notified that I had been selected for the privilege.

Like most voters, I assumed that my chores would consist of smiling, helping a few disabled voters, crossing off addresses, and passing out "I voted" lapel stickers. I had no appreciation for how hard precinct workers work on election day..... or of the barely computerized, labor-intensive state of our democratic voting system.

The 5 or 6 workers assigned to each precinct (location) work from 6 AM until 9 PM, with perhaps a two hour break in mid-morning or mid-afternoon. They are entirely responsible for first taking an oath of office, then setting up voting booths and reporting mechanisms, posting the required signs and hanging the American flag, opening the polling place, procuring paper ballots, checking qualifications of all voters, assisting voters, accommodating disabled voters, explaining electronic voting, communicating regularly with the Orange County ROV, processing spoiled ballots, reconciling the quantity of cast ballots, closing the polls and immediately transporting ballots and equipment to the ROV.

And diligently guarding against voter intimidation and interference, news media intrusion, poll watcher violations and electioneering. There are even laws to regulate who may carry a gun into a polling place and what to do if a ruckus breaks out at our precinct. (Call the local police.)

Every county in each of the 50 states and US voting territories has its own set of voting regulations and largely manual procedures. A national election is a massive, unimaginably intricate undertaking. The potential for error and fraud is enormous, and yet is quite rare in the United States solely because of the integrity and dedication of poll workers.

Poll workers are unpaid or barely paid for their election day labors, but that's hardly their reason for volunteering for this chore. They care deeply about preserving a truly free democracy, where all voters can privately participate to choose the course of their country. And they are willing to give of themselves to serve their neighbors, their communities, their nation.

God bless all who volunteer to make elections possible. Our democratic freedoms and privileges wouldn't be possible without them.

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