Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Rock the Vote - well at least I tried to!


Yesterday, as I'm sure you are well aware, was an historic day for the United States, and I had a chance to view democracy at it's best - as a Judge of Election. 

What exactly is a "Judge of Election?" Well, we're the people that help guide you through the process of casting your ballot for the candidates of your choice. We are trained by the Chicago Board of Elections to make the process of voting smooth and seamless to you and allow all eligible voters an opportunity to cast their ballot. 

I thought I'd give you an insiders look to what actually happens during the day of an Election Judge 

First off, this is not a volunteer position, we are paid to be a Judge - and at first point people say "SIGN ME UP!" until they realize the amount of time and effort that goes into the process. 

I woke up at 4AM yesterday morning, ate breakfast and headed off to my assigned Polling Place which unfortunately was not in my own precinct but one about 6 blocks away. At 5AM we started setting up the polling place, putting the booths together, making sure that every voter would have privacy to complete their ballot, getting all of the documents in order, counting everything so we could verify totals at the end of the day, putting up posters, setting up chairs and suddenly realizing that there were more than 100 eyes watching everything we were doing. 

By 5:30AM people were lining up at the doors, people brought their collapsible chairs and morning lattes as they stood outside the locked doors. At six on the nose, the doors were opened and like the mad shoppers out for Black Friday deals, everyone rushed into the polling place, everyone wanting to be the first to cast their vote. 

Jobs had been decided before we opened the doors and my job was "Greeter and Ballot Taker" so I had the chance to welcome everyone. We were a dual-precinct polling place so I asked everyone their address as they entered and directed them to the correct tables. I was also responsible for helping to answer questions voters had during the voting process, and finally I watched over the Ballot Box Scanner to help everyone cast their vote. 

By 7:30AM we had almost 50 votes cast - not a bad mornings work, considering that most people took about 20 minutes to completely fill out their ballots. Although some people were quick about it because they only wanted to vote on a few of the big issues like the Presidential Race and whether we should have a Constitutional Convention. 

We never really had a "big rush" of people, as we were all expecting Rush Hour Traffic all day, but it never materialized. We did though have a constant flow of people throughout the day. 

It takes a lot of work to be a Judge of Election, you need to make sure that everyone has an official "application for ballot" (that's the big book of names), that everyone has the correct ballot (we had two different ballots in our precinct), that everyone has a right to privacy, that no one is electioneering (handing out leaflets in the precinct, wearing an Obama button or t-shirt) and that everyone has a right to have their vote counted. 

We had no major incidences, there were a few people turned away because they weren't in the right precinct to vote or had registered at an old address and never updated their registration, but everyone that wanted to vote got a chance to vote. 

It was wonderful to see Democracy in action, to see parents bringing their just barely adult children with them and proudly announcing to everyone "This is my daughters first vote." Or the obvious immigrant who held out their Voter Registration card for me to read because they couldn't speak English but were excited to be able to vote in this momentous election. I got more than I can count "High Fives" after people scanned their ballot and I handed them their "I voted" receipt, I got a couple of hugs and I even got "missed connections" posting on Craigslist! 

Around 5PM we started bracing ourselves for the mad rush of people returning home from work....it never happened. Secretly I was happy that it didn't happen because by law, anyone that is line at 7PM has the right to vote, so I kept my fingers closed that not everyone would decide to rush in at the last minute. 

At 7PM we shut the doors of the precinct and started the process of shutting down, tearing down voter booths, breaking plastic seals that had been verified by countless Election Officials and Pollwatchers during the day. We counted the spoiled ballots, we counted the unused ballots, we printed off reports, and reports, and reports, we signed the printouts, we transmitted the results and kept our fingers crossed that they were delivered without issue, we stuffed envelopes, we sealed envelopes, we signed our names across the seals, and finally we handed off our precincts official results to the Sheriff who was waiting on hand to deliver the goods to the local Receiving Station. It took us more than 90 minutes to complete our official duties as a Judge of Election. 

I got home a little after 9PM where I watched about 10 minutes of the news coverage before I took a shower and headed off for a well deserved sleep. It's tough being on your feet for more than a few hours a day, but I was standing for more than 16 hours yesterday - and I wouldn't have it any other way! 

The most interesting thing of the day though was how "out of the loop" we really were with all of the excitement that was going on outside of the poling place. We had no access to the Internet, radio, television or any talks of politics. We were completely shielded by everything that was going on around us as we had a single focus - to get the people to vote! 

I proudly displayed my "final count tally" from our precinct today on my cubicle wall showing that Barack Obama won by more than 93%. 

Oh yeah, I guess perhaps I should follow up on that Craigslist posting too! 

How was your voting experience?

5 comments:

TrickyToro said...

Good job! Thanks for doing this. I think you picked the right election to judge, lol.

jefframone said...

We had a similar experience in the 50th Precinct of the 44th Ward. Huge mad rush of people from 6 to about 10:30. Then, nothing but a trickle of people all day. At the end, same your polling place: no mad rush. I was shocked. It was a rough day, energy wise. Somewhat disorganized, but overall a success. Read about it here:
http://jefframone.blogspot.com/2008/11/poll-position-part-3-big-day.html

Marty Mouse said...

I had my voting experience at my local Fire Department. Its about 2 blocks from where I live in Glendale, CA. I went there around 9AM, and waited for about 10 minutes. Everything was okay, no long lines, and I noticed mostly elderly folks. However.....
There was a major distraction for me..... Those hot, hunky, firefighters were parading around in their tight t-shirts and waders. They were just there greeting and smiling at everyone. I almost forgot what it was I came there for. lol

Michael, what was the missed connections about. Did you hook up? Thanks for all the work you did.

m000se said...

Thanks for doing your civic duty and covering it. My grandma was one every election but I never new all that went into it!

David said...

"Mike the Election Worker"! Whoo hoo! I would never have thought you'd get a date out of judgin'! (giggles)

And it was fun running in to you at the polling place as I surveyed the site for accessibility (work thing)!

Love ya' hon,

~David