Hey guys, just wanted to drop in and see if anything new happened in your world since last we spoke. I’ve been real bored, is why I’m asking. Haha seriously, though. The past seven days in the United States have been bonkers, but the past THREE days, since the official election, have been BONKERS.
And we saw it coming, right? Globally, we all knew that this month, that this election, was going to be above and beyond. The reality TV of elections. Must-see TV.
And all of that would be fine if we were talking about, say, an incredible season finale to cap off a magical series (looking at you, Six Feet Under). But we’re not. We’re talking about the state of the entire country. We’re talking about being in a situation in which a pandemic continues to rage, a population continues to rage, a cadre of leaders (is it a cadre? It’s either that or throwdown. A throwdown of leaders. Yes. That feels right.) continues to rage. Our tempers have been short, and our time at home has been long. People are either getting all of the paychecks, or none of them. Everything has been redefined, from office space to family time.
So, yeah, the election kind of ended up being a bigger deal this year.
Watching the headlines now, what I see is the perfect encapsulation of 2020 – hurry up and wait. Something is happening that has had a huge impact on us all, but there’s very little we can actively do aside from sit quietly, stay sanitized, and slowly lose our minds.
I spent a lot of this year doing new things, and one of them was serving as an election official on Tuesday. The reason I did it was many-fold: I had previously been involved with the League of Women Voters, and really valued their mission. I had noticed that election officials tended to be older, and felt like it would be better, in these Covid-y times, to have a younger group with less risk. The latter reason proved tragically accurate, with the news out of St. Charles that an election official died after contracting Covid. While they contracted the virus a few days prior to Tuesday, it’s still a stark reminder how quickly circumstances can turn.
Earlier in the year, in order to aid voter registration drives, I became a voter registrar. And when I did that, I thought, well, I’ll submit a request to be a poll worker and whatever happens, happens.
When I got the envelope of instructions in the mail a few weeks later, it was like getting selected for the Price is Right. I was so starry-eyed, I felt like a damn celebrity. Even though I live in one of those very-much-red areas, and even though I was a little nervous that there would be self-appointed watchers patrolling the parking lot, I was super determined to be the best damned election official ever, or at least in my house.
The cool thing about poll workers is that they’re evenly divided between the two parties, so we had three Democrats and three Republicans. Each party had a supervisory representative. (I never knew this before, so I figured I’d tell you in case you didn’t know, either.) The letter in the instruction packet directed us to report at 5:00 a.m., which is such a fun time to reflect on why you’re awake, so from the very beginning I was down to clown.
First, I didn’t think the day would ever come, because it feels like we’ve been living through political ads for dead-ass five straight years, but then it arrived. The first stupid thing I did was wake up at 3:30 and work out. In my mind, that would get the circulation going and wake up my brain, since I knew I’d be sitting for hours and hours.
Second, I drank 30 ounces of water with a scoop of Energize (I don’t like coffee, but I DO like this stuff). And third, before I could change my mind, I showered and left the house with a baggie of almonds, one banana, and a heart full of democracy.
Arrival: 4:58am, right after the head supervisory official and another girl that I assumed to also be an election official. After we loaded materials into the building, I realized that she was still waiting outside.
“You’re here early,” I remarked.
She looked back at me.
“It’s important. I’ll wait here as long as it takes.”
As it turned out, her wait was lengthy. There was a delay to the start time due to a website crash, so the first votes weren’t logged until almost 7:30a.m. Very few people left, unless they had to be at work. Once inside, people naturally distanced themselves, which was a huge relief to me. Tables had Plexiglass barriers. Pens and styluses were sanitized after every single use.
Worth noting: we had about a dozen curbside voters, largely those who had difficulty walking on their own. The process for collecting those votes was so carefully guarded, and I was super impressed. Identifications were thoroughly verified and checked against the system inside. Votes were returned inside a sleeve so that the election officials couldn’t see the slips, and pressed against the machine so that the vote was sucked in, but the sleeve remained. Still, I saw several people recording us as we did this, or giving us the side-eye.
Only one voter borderline lost his mind. During the standard address verification step, when asked for his, he said “It’s on my ID.” When the hapless official apologetically said it was required, he burst out, “What’s YOUR address?” But overall, one complete tool out of thousands of people was pretty darn good. And the number of parents who brought their children and patiently explained everything to them made my heart swell three sizes. Every time. I’m actually going to get it checked out now that I got my insurance back.
While I was tired both at the beginning of my shift and 15 hours later at its end, I was fascinated at the care and adherence to rules shown by the supervisory officials, and the patience they had with those of us who were new. I learned that I kind of hate when people write in candidates (Mickey Mouse and Harimbe led, but Kanye also got several), because those all must be checked against a list of legitimate candidates, but again, each step was very thorough and very carefully following procedure.
Anyway, I got home at 9:00 p.m. and immediately lost my shit because there was like a dish in the sink or something, but overall, I’d call the experience a success! So please, as we navigate this time of wild impatience together, grant some grace to all of those counting votes.
They’re really doing a hell of a job.