What’s even better than exercising my civic duty? Helping others to exercise theirs.
On Thursday, September 8th, I beat the sunrise and drove to the fire station in South Brookline. I spent the full state primary day there, from 6:00AM-8:40PM (with an hour lunch break), learning the ropes of election administration.
I loved every minute of it, from taping the sample ballots to the walls in the morning, to tallying up the completed ballots in the evening. In order to learn every aspect of the role, I alternated between the check-in and check-out tables, looking up voters’ addresses in the books, handing them their ballots, and passing out “I Voted” stickers.
Several times, the warden, clerk, and other election workers told me that the primary was nothing like the November Election Day. They referred to a drastic difference in voter turnout between the two days. I believed them, that the primary day would be slower. To be certain, I’m bracing myself for the never-ending line of voters checking in on November 8th.
Yet the people I met all day on September 8th proved to me that every election matters. Sure, the voter turnout was low. But precinct 15 was energized.
I met people who set aside their many work and family responsibilities to participate in the primary process. Some voters swung by on their way to work, and I bet they had set their alarms a little early just for the occasion. I met people who were just walking by throughout the day and popped in to vote.
Several voters came to vote on the ballot initiatives. The ballot initiatives will be on the November ballot. They voted anyway. (FYI, you can read up on the ballot initiatives here.)
Perhaps my favorite part was meeting parents who seized an opportunity for a civics lesson and opted to bring their kids to the polls.
Also, even though there weren’t any contested races for a couple parties, I spoke with residents who wanted to vote anyway. More than once, a voter took the ballot from my hands and told me, “I never miss a chance to vote.”
My Fellow Election Workers
During the lulls, when few people walked through the fire station doors, I listened to my fellow election workers with awe. It’s amazing how sitting in a polling place can inspire such fascinating conversations among strangers. Now we’re friends. We talked about our neighborhoods, the towns we grew up in, our school system, our working experiences, our families, our favorite past-times, and even our values. You all know how I feel about civic conversations.
Don’t worry, though. We didn’t discuss the candidates.
To my fellow election workers: Thank you for making my first election working experience so enlightening! I can’t wait to see you all again on November 8th.
At 8PM, our clerk walked to the middle of the voting place and he closed the polls. I thought we were almost done. I was very, very wrong. Actually, that’s when a lot of the work started. We matched up the check-in list with the check-out list, and compared those to the ballot box print-out receipt of tallied votes. We crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s, carefully accounting for every vote and sealing up the envelopes.
While some people claim that ballot fraud exists, I find that very hard to believe, especially after participating in this process. No one could possibly “stuff” a ballot box. In fact, our warden and clerk approached ballot security incredibly seriously. We double- and triple-checked every tally. We followed each protocol by the letter. If that’s not enough, a police officer stood by as we opened and transported the ballots.
As a result, we stayed awhile that night, until absolutely everything was done. I can’t imagine how late we’ll stay on November 8th! It’ll be worth it.
Counting Down the Days
Surprisingly, November 8th is already right around the corner. However, it’s not too late to sign up as an election worker! If you can swing it, I highly recommend it. Just to note, the Town of Brookline compensates election workers for participating in the training and working at the polls. So that’s nice! More importantly, election administration is a great way to serve your community. To learn more or sign up, contact your Town or City Clerk’s office. Here’s the contact information for Brookline.
Precinct 15 of Brookline, see you again soon!