My experience as a poll worker

As+a+poll+worker%2C+my+main+job+was+to+show+people+who+needed+assistance+where+to+cast+their+ballot.

Dana Richie

As a poll worker, my main job was to show people who needed assistance where to cast their ballot.

Marcus Johnson

When I woke up at 4 a.m. on Nov. 3, the only thing I wanted to do was go back to sleep. Instead, I made my way to Mount Ephraim Baptist Church to work as a poll worker in this year’s election. 

I pulled into the pitch black parking lot of the church at 5 a.m. and convened with the other poll workers in the corner of the church gymnasium. Many of them were first-time poll workers like me, furthering their civic engagement to help others vote. The managers at the polling location, on the other hand, were seasoned veterans. Everyone was helpful and devoted to the cause.

Hoping to beat the lines, the first voters lined up outside minutes before the polls opened at 7 a.m. They formed the only line of the day. 

After the initial crowd got through voting, there was a slow trickle of voters arriving one-by-one throughout the day.

My official job was a line monitor, but without a line, I found new duties for myself. Under Georgia’s new voting system, voters make their selections on a touchscreen, then print them on a paper ballot. To cast their vote, voters then place the paper ballot into a scanner. This was a confusing process for many, particularly because the sole scanner in the polling place was not in an immediately apparent location. I devoted most of my time to guiding voters to the scanner and walking them through how to use it.

As part of my role, I made sure each and every voter saw their ballot successfully cast. Hearing the sound of their ballots fall into the bin below the scanner, seeing the smile on their face when I told them they had cast their ballot and hearing their cheerful “thank you’s” gave me a heartwarming feeling. I couldn’t vote myself, but I was there to make the voting process go as smoothly as possible for others. I felt that I was doing my part.

Despite the low turnout, there was a diverse group of people coming to vote: young voters who were voting for the first time, elderly voters, families with young children, and people who came with a family member or friend who had already voted. Many voters commented on how, to their surprise, the voting process had been so easy.  For many, this election inspired them to get out and vote for the first time. It was important to me that their voting experience  inspired  them to continue voting regularly in future elections.

The polling place was almost completely empty for much of the afternoon, but started to pick up as people got off from work. A few people arrived just minutes before the polls closed at 7 p.m., and we waited as each and every last voter in line had successfully cast their ballot. By then, it was closer to 7:30 p.m. Some of the poll workers, including myself, packed up the chairs, tables and signage across the gym, while the polling place managers dealt with the voting machines and the ballots. Most of us left at 8:15 p.m. Those who stayed to count ballots and make sure everything was in order had a long night ahead of themselves.

Exiting the Mount Ephraim Baptist Church gymnasium and walking to the once again pitch black parking lot, my feet were incredibly tired. But surprisingly, I felt fine. What had kept me going throughout the day— seeing people who came in feeling uncertain and left feeling confident and optimistic about voting — did not leave me when I left that gym. Each vote was a person who had taken the time to come out and make their voice heard. I realized that the feeling of hope and community that came with that was going to stay with me.

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