By Veronica Mackey
It’s 6am and a group of sleepy but cheerful folks are mulling around First Lutheran Church in Culver City. I am one of several there to help people cast their votes. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do—a thing to check off my bucket list.
This year, though, I must admit I was more than a little concerned—not about Donald Trump’s assertion that the voting process was “rigged,” but about voter suppression. I’d read that White Supremacist groups were out to keep black folks from voting by coming to the polls (possibly with weapons) to intimidate them.
I wanted to make sure that did not happen. It didn’t.
A few folks complaining about the long line and heat was about as bad as it got. The longest wait time was in the morning, and I hear, as long as 90 minutes.
As soon as Larry, our poll inspector and Steve Harvey look-alike, announced, “The polls are now open,” it was on! So many people came through the door that it seemed like one big blur. My job was to cross off the list of voters by addresses. I could barely keep up the pace.
Looking at the long line of folks who had yet to get to work, I checked addresses as fast as I could. It was 1pm before I got a break. The adrenaline raced through my veins as I tried to get voters through the line quickly. It was such a rush!
At lunch time, I turned on the radio in my car to see how the election was going. There were no numbers to report, but there was an interview with a poll worker. I felt special.
While Donald Trump was making history, us poll workers were enthralled in the process of making sure everyone got a chance to vote. The registered voters were the easiest. They just showed up, gave their name and address and that was it.
Others were a little tricky. Some lived several miles away but worked near the polling place and wanted to vote there. Some never received their vote-by-mail ballots. Others surrendered their vote-by-mail ballots and chose to vote at the poll instead. One man who had a vote-by-mail ballot, went home to complete it and came back to drop it off. Well over 100 voters were given provisional ballots.
The word “provisional” did not fit well with some voters. “I don’t want a provisional ballot,” one woman said. “I want my vote to count.” Larry explained that all votes count, and provisional ballots help ensure voters can exercise their rights in an expedient way.
The long day wore on and the energy was relatively calm by 8pm. Another poll inspector announced that “the polls are now closed.” It was time to count and clean up. Working in a group of three, we counted ten ballots at a time and crisscrossed them to make the process easy. Each ballot, name and address were treated with the utmost care. Ballots were sealed and hand delivered to the county.
If anyone ever tries to suggest that voter fraud is a problem, I totally disagree. There are layers upon layers of checks and balances put in place to insure people don’t abuse the system. And the voters themselves have such integrity. Most wanted to prove they were legitimate, especially if they did not have a ballot. One woman even showed her credit cards.
Being a poll worker gave me a sense of civic pride. It felt good to serve my neighbors in this way. One man was very grateful, saying, “I really appreciate all that you are doing for us today. It’s a beautiful thing. Thank you.”
No, dear voters, thank you!