A Day at the Polls
As I write, it is Memorial Day. When I was a child I remember it as “Decoration Day” and my family visited the cemetery and cleaned up the grave sites in our own lots and often planted flowers. That little private cemetery named on a worn, wooden sign still points up a steep hill is Webb Cemetery. The local 4-H group takes care of mowing the grass and families still visit annually to spruce up the family plots. I thought it fitting to write about my day at the primary polls today because it seemed a patriotic thing to do.
May 6, 2014, found me slapping the alarm clock at 3:45. We had to be present and start the working day by 5 A.M. Six of us gathered to put up the mandatory signs, autograph the mandatory documents, and start the electronic machines at the count of zero. When that was done, we stood in a straight line, right hands raised, and took the oath of the poll worker’s promise. Our job is a serious job. None of us take it lightly. You may not know this, but the job has to be spread equally between the political parties recognized by the state, in my case, the State of Indiana. Whenever a voter has a question at the voting booth, both parties are represented when giving an answer.
Fourteen hours after my arrival at my assigned polling place, I checked out. Yes, it was an exhausting day but a very meaningful day as well. During the course of the day as I activated ballots for each voter that followed me to a booth I encountered all walks of life in our fine city. Parents brought children with them. Sometimes I entertained the children, but if they were old enough, I made sure the child knew the seriousness of the voting process. We saw handicapped people who had specialty voting places set up for them, college aged voters, many canes, and business people who came on their lunch hours.
I had the joy of helping a gentleman who confessed he had not voted in twenty years and never on an electronic machine. The last thing I wanted for him was to feel awkward. When he finished he came back to me and gave me a hug and said loudly enough for all to hear, “She didn’t even make me bleed” as he proudly held out an arm. It gave everyone a chuckle.
One voter I assisted was young and it was a first-time vote. For him, he got the full package of how to move from page to page through the ballot and finally a firm but friendly warning not to leave the booth until he read that his vote had been confirmed and counted. Did you know that if you fail to confirm your vote, we have to cancel it? Many voters proudly proclaimed that they had never missed voting for all their lives.
Hugs or hearty handshakes were in order for friends and neighbors who recognized me and I witnessed several voters mingle in the room in sometimes not so quiet conversation. The primary day, in all, was quiet compared to the last polls I worked in November of 2012. Whatever your political persuasion, I urge you to do your citizen responsibility to vote this fall in the mid-term elections. If you don’t vote: don’t complain. Men, and women, have served in the armed forces in order for our Grand Old Flag to fly over the polling places so that we can have voice in the Congress of America. Some of the offices filled on election day are local offices. The office of Sheriff, local county commissioners, school board, and city mayors are determined at the polls.
Voting is not a popularity contest. Voters should study the facts before picking up that stylus in a voting booth. Take the time to educate yourself before you reach the polls. No campaigning is allowed inside the polls; you may, however, take in a handwritten list of those for whom you intend to vote.
Lastly, make sure you are properly registered to vote! In my county, it is super easy to register, and it is impossible to vote twice. No dead people can vote. If you will be 18 before an election, and are now 17, you may vote in the primary. Register, and come meet me at the polls in November. I’ll be there with an extra pair of shoes and everything I need for the day because once I check in, I cannot leave! Just a thought: you CAN bring me lunch; I just can’t leave to get lunch. It is all in a day’s work at the polls.
For those of you wondering: Yes, I get paid. It isn’t a big check, but it is something. No, it is not the proposed minimum wage. It is such a meaningful day; frankly, I would do it for free.