Yesterday I did my civic duty and spent the majority of my day opening mail-in and absentee ballots for my county. I did think I was going to get paid as we did two years ago but it was fully volunteer. I probably would’ve worked it anyway, but I’ll be honest, I was disappointed to not be paid.
I arrived at our county government building at 6:15 a.m. There were probably about 25 of us waiting outside commenting on the lunar eclipse that we all just saw because we were up so frickin early. Something we won’t see again until 2025. At 6:20 we were led into the building into a lobby area where they handed out mint green t-shirts with our county’s logo on the front and “Election Volunteers” printed big and bold on the back. One of the county commissioners commented on how much time it took to choose the mint green color. I suspect that some of the people around that decision-making table were colorblind. Anyway, we all put them on, as well as names tags, and signed-in and then went into the room where we would spend the majority of the day. The room was lined with rows of long tables with stations of scotch tape, clips, small post-it notes, red pens, and instructions every couple of feet.
Before we got started we each signed an oath that we were indeed who we said we were and that what we would be seeing would remain confidential, along with our address, phone number, and the date. Three county commissioners were there and gave some welcoming remarks and thanked us. Then the woman in charge of elections for our county gave more detailed instructions. One of our tasks was to make sure the dates of the signatures on the outside ballot fell between certain time frames which were different for mail-in ballots than absentee ones. After the process was explained, we began examining ballots and then opening them. There was excitement about two new machines that would open ballots and how they were going to make it so much easier than opening them manually but initially there were long lines at the machines and the one I was waiting in line to use kept getting jammed. There were definitely some kinks to work out. However, as the morning went by, we all seemed to get into a groove and things moved pretty smoothly and quickly.
Something I did not appreciate was all the poll watchers who were walking around and getting too close to us. My understanding was that they weren’t supposed to ask us any questions and that if they had a question they were to ask the officials there but some did ask questions. The guy in charge of the poll watchers stood near my station a lot. I heard him tell a newly arrived watcher after asking her which party she represented and she said Republican, that all the watchers there were Republicans but one. It felt like there were at least a dozen there but I don’t know for sure. It might’ve just felt that way because it was a relatively small room and it felt very crowded. I wonder if there are statutes about how many poll watchers can be at a given place at once. I may check that out. I also wondered if they were meant to intimidate. I heard that same guy tell new watchers to be looking out for the dates on the envelopes. As I mentioned above, if dates of signatures on the envelopes weren’t between certain time frames, we had to set them aside and they couldn’t be counted. But for them to read the dates, they had to get pretty close.
Media was there and supposed to stay behind the taped line a couple of feet in front of the long wall. They didn’t always stay behind the line. So it felt a little chaotic at times and noisy for sure… and hot. We were told they were working on cooling the room but that never happened.
Ego or Injustice
I sometimes have trouble figuring out if what I am feeling is my own ego stuff or if it’s about injustice and therefore important to speak out about. I got into such a bad mood yesterday and I’m still trying to figure out why. All the volunteers I met yesterday seemed kind, hard-working, and smart. Many of them were retired and felt really good about volunteering and doing their civic duty. I’m probably an outlier but I couldn’t help feeling like a proletariat or like I was working on a factory line with all these people walking around examining my work. I was already a little miffed about finding out we weren’t getting paid. County officials (all male) were certainly getting paid for their time. When we got paid two years ago, you could choose not to sign up to get paid as many retirees didn’t need the extra money but in today’s climate many people aren’t so lucky and could use the money. There was a 25 year-old there who was also disappointed to not get paid. I doubt we were the only ones. I feel whiney complaining about the money thing. But I also don’t want to feel shame about having wanted it. I suppose I felt a bit manipulated and I based an expectation on a past experience. Honestly, the pay wasn’t very much and I’ll be fine. I suppose it’s the principle of it.
Back to Poll Watchers
Maybe the bigger rub for me was the many poll watchers. It wasn’t explained to us in the email sent to us with details about the day, nor was anything said about them that morning. They wore necklace lanyard badges indicating that they were poll watchers. But the elephants in the room weren’t discussed. Just the kind of backwards communication in this county that I complain about often. And when I asked one of the leaders about the poll watchers, she got flustered and said she didn’t know. The message seemed to be to not talk about them.
Anyway, thanks for listening to my rant. I’m honestly not sure if I’m glad I volunteered yesterday or not. I just wish we would’ve been treated better. I’m clearly working out something internally.
Ok, but here’s the silver lining…the election results in my area went the way I wanted! YAY! I am so grateful for that!