Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ELECTION WORKER the primary by Karla Stover


     This year I received a questionable Christmas-in-July gift—a whopping big dental bill. And since it couldn’t be returned, I applied to work for the county during election season. This first thing I want to say is, where I live (Tacoma, Washington in Pierce County) I saw no way to fix the votes.
     After training (which included a very boring OSHA video), getting a photo ID, and creating a fingerprint verification sign in, my first job was to pick up ballots. This is done with a randomly-assigned partner. My county goes into the foothills of Mt. Rainier and to an island in Puget Sound. We were sent across the Narrows Straits and up toward the Bremerton Shipyard. We arrived about half-an-hour early, checked in, and sat under a copse of trees across from the ballot box, chatting and watching people come and go. At 7:45 (voting ends at 8:00) we headed to the box carrying assorted stuff. First job: confirm that the number on the band across the lock agrees with the records, then sign an affidavit to that effect. A carbon copy stays inside the box, one goes in a bag, and I forget where the other went, not having done this before, my partner was in charge of paperwork. Next: fill trays with the ballots, all facing the same way. Sign an affidavit, one copy goes in the tray which is then closed and sealed, one is taped to the outside and the original goes in the bag. If it is raining the county hands out umbrellas not for personal use but to keep the ballots dry, also, cell phones are required for time synchronization. If someone comes after 8:00, write the time on the ballot, tell the voter it won't be counted, and give him a phone number to call, if he/she wants to. Take ballots to the office and clock out

     My second job was ballot verification and trust me when I say, people do odd things with their ballots. The instructions plainly say use a pencil or dark ink. Nevertheless, I had a ballot filled out in turquoise. I had one where someone wrote in Goofy Goose for State Auditor, another where the voter voted for every Democrat running (which was several in some races) thus invalidating the ballot, and one where everyone running was a Democrat and the voter wrote, “F - - - You, I’m a Republican.” It could have been worse: people who worked in Seattle/King county told me everyone had to wear gloves because ballots came in with feces or urine on them, with cockroaches in the envelope, with pictures of themselves as if trolling for a date, and one was so blood-soaked, it had to go into a hazmet bag.

     Two people work together on the ballots which have to be redone. They then go to another team who verifies the accuracy. Making a mistake is another big deal--every ballot is accounted for. And all the while, representatives from the parties are wandering around, watching to see that no one cheats. The part I like best is break time when I read the reasons people applied for Workmen's Compensation which was posted on a bulletin board.

     I have my schedule for the final election and it should be exciting. Already I'm scheduled for a class on proper maintenance and cleaning of the ballot box.