November 2, 2020
By Anne Valentine, Vice President of Government Relations at United Way of Central Indiana
It’s been a few years since I have served as a poll worker. How long might you ask?
The last time I volunteered at the polls, the voting machine was a huge machine – at least six feet tall and wide. You entered this “booth,” drew a curtain behind you, and voted. To cast a ballot, you moved a lever next to the name of the person for whom you were casting your vote. When you had cast all your votes, you moved another giant lever to officially register the vote. As a poll volunteer on the last primary election day, my job involved tallying the votes on the back of the machine when the polls closed. There were two of us – one Republican, one Democrat – to confirm the tally. Incidentally, that particular election had very low voter turnout (as typically happens during a primary); therefore, I think we only had to tally 100 or so ballots.
This year, I decided it was time to re-enter the poll working world because, right now, the polls just need more people to volunteer. They also need more people who are not as vulnerable in a pandemic (The Election Assistance Commission reported that the majority of poll workers in 2018 were age 61 and older). It turns out, they don’t need me to be a poll worker. I get to be an inspector!
I’m probably overly excited about the job of inspector. I’m not 100% certain what the job entails, but I know I get to be *in charge* of the polling place. I imagine there is a devil in the details, but for now, I’m excited and ready to serve. I’m also guessing a hat, coat and gadgets are not included in the job.
I’m also reminded about what this day is really like. In a word, the day is LONG. In Indiana, polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Poll worker hours are 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. – with no lunch breaks, no dinner breaks, and only quick bathroom breaks. Poll workers are a team and need to help each other throughout the day, which is my favorite part. Back in the day, we would all pitch in with snacks and delicious recipes in the Crockpot (anything cheesy in a Crockpot is right up my alley). Given the pandemic, a pitch-in is sadly very unlikely this year.
But, as inspector, I’ll be sure my team of poll workers is safely nourished and constantly reminded of the real joy of their service: spending the day with committed volunteers who are passionate about ensuring our community has a safe and fair election.
Then, I’ll go home to, hopefully, something cheesy in my Crockpot.