Protect the Vote – Work the Polls!

Vote Early, Vote OftenIndiana is generally not considered a major player in the national election scene, which many Hoosiers would say is just fine.  We only have to suffer through a minimal amount of campaigning and get hardly any phone calls.  However, this year looks like it might provide a little excitement with the heated democratic presidential primary, so when my best friend’s mom asked if I’d like to help work the polls, I said sure.  Our primaries aren’t technically until May 6th but the state decided to allow early voting and absentee ballots for a few weeks prior.

“Are you an R or a D?” is the first question I was asked when I reported in for duty.  I was utterly confused for about twenty seconds until I realized she was asking about my political party.  I consider myself more of an Independent but for the purposes of the primary, all poll workers have to declare themselves as either Republicans or Democrats and an effort is made to keep the two well-balanced.  In my mind, it doesn’t make much of a difference since we all solemnly swear not to talk politics and we’re all really there because we feel it’s important for people to vote, but there is a big long list of rules to help the polls from being too partisan.

It has been a fascinating experience so far.  I’ll be back tomorrow morning to brave the crowds trickling in from the nearby farmers’ market.  My job is mostly just explaining to folks how machine voting works but I’m learning a lot of the details behind the scenes.  Every voter has to sign a piece of paper saying he/she voted, and that paper is signed by a Republican pollworker and a Democrat pollworker who witnessed the vote.  Everything is carefully tallied and counted two or three different ways as a cross-check.  All the machines are tallied daily on computer and on paper.  And heaven help the folks who are working to keep the voter registration up-to-date for every adult in Indiana.

Working the polls has also helped me better appreciate the community here in Bloomington.  I have seen an amazing diversity of folks come in to make their voices heard.  I have run into former teachers, old high school buddies, and people who are on the ballot running for election in town.  It’s great to see everyone being so excited about the process and committed to exercising their right to vote.  I’m sure we all have moments of feeling voiceless and powerless in this giant nation but I enjoy having the opportunity to play a part in the process and to know that I’m doing my best to keep it honest, accurate, and representative of the people.

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