"Hail Mary" is now available on Audiobook
Although two of my children, Tommy and Theresa, are veteran election day poll workers,
...and although I've always been proud of them for their good citizenship, it was never on my own radar to volunteer at the polls.
That is, until a few weeks ago.
As most of the rest of the country by now knows, the day before yesterday, August 8, a critically important special election was held in Ohio on Issue 1, a proposed amendment to the Ohio state constitution put on the ballot by the Republican majority Ohio legislature. (See post from 7/12/2023, https://www.ailantha.com/blog/ohioans-need-to-know-about-issue-1-and-so-does-the-rest-of-the-country).
In short, Issue 1 was favored by the pro-life coalition; those in support of abortion rights were against it. As was I.
By the middle of July, with only a few weeks left until the special election, there was a growing momentum among Ohioans, who were showing up in droves at the county boards of election to vote early.
But with predictions of a potential tsunami of voters likewise hitting the polls on election day, there was a shortage of people signed up to be poll workers. A call went out for election day volunteers. I decided to answer the call .
I learned that there were three positions a Precinct Election Officer, or PEO, as the poll workers were called, could hold.
There are the roster judges, who sit at a long table and sign in the voters and hand them their Authority to Vote slips and ballots. The provisional judges sit at another table and take care of any provisional ballots. I opted for the third position, that of machine judge. I liked the sound of it: Machine Judge. It made me think of the Terminator.
Anyway, I was required to attend a three-hour training class at the Franklin Country board of Elections,
...where I and my fellow PEO's learned that as machine judges we would be required to set up the voting machines and ballot counting machines the night before the election and take them down after the election and take care of all the security paperwork involved. On election day we would lead the voters to the voting machines and collect from them their Authority to Vote slips and the ballots they were given by the roster judges. We'd insert the ballots into the voting machines and press the box that matched the precinct on their Authority to Vote slips.
After each voter voted we'd direct them to the ballot counting machines, also manned or womaned by a machine judge, who would instruct the voters how to insert their ballot into the ballot counting machine.
Then we'd give them their sticker.
In truth, I left the class feeling more than a weence overwhelmed and not a little anxious about remembering everything I'd be required to do in fulfilling my duty as a machine judge on election day. I was gripped with a fear of messing up.
However when I arrived at my assigned voting site the night before election day - happily, I was assigned to the polling location at the auditorium of Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, two blocks from my house,
...I met a friendly, jovial crew of mostly veteran PEO's who were happy to help a novice like me and show me the modus operandi of setting up the machines. One nice fellow machine judge even walked me though a rehearsal of what I was most concerned about, setting up the voters at the voting machines.
The following day, August 8, election day, I walked from my house and arrived at Peace Lutheran at 5:30am to join my fellow Precinct Election Officials - roster judges, provisional judges, and machine judges - for the final set up. We ended up with a little time to spare before the polls would open at 6:30 am. Though we didn't realize it, this bit of time was to be for us the calm before the coming 13-hour storm.
A few minutes before opening one of the PEO's stepped into the lobby outside the auditorium and took a look through the glass front doors. "You won't believe it," they came back and excitedly reported, "there's a real crowd out there!"
But we did believe it when the doors opened at 6:30 and several dozen people massed into the room, followed by a steady stream that kept the lines at the roster table long, almost to the door, almost all day long.
There was no let-up for the seven or eight roster judge who sat at their tables signing in people, and we seven machine judges were in constant motion taking people to the voting machines and ballot counting machines, with never more than a few seconds break, if that, between voters. After my first few voters I had my spiel down pat:
"Hi, come on over, I'll get you set up." (I take their ballot and Authority to Vote slip, then insert their ballot into the machine). "Let's check to verify your precinct. Yep, that's right, see?" (They agree). I press the "Accept" box then step a little aside). "Now you're all ready to vote. Just follow the instructions, you'll have the chance to go back and review your vote if you'd like. When you're satisfied with your selection, then press 'Print Ballot.' Your printed ballot will be returned to you. Take a moment to check your ballot, then bring it over there to the ballot counter machine, and see that nice guy? He'll show you how to insert your ballot into the machine. Any questions? If you have any questions just give a holler."
I said that hundreds of times. All the Machine Judges did.
And so the day went on. I was impressed with how friendly, welcoming, upbeat and patient all the PEO's were all day long, from opening to closing. And I was impressed with how friendly and nice and patient all the voters were, in spite of the long lines to sign in at the roster table.
For a few hours I switched out working the voting machines to working the ballot counting machines, which, I thought, was the cushiest gig in the place, and the most fun. All you had to do was direct the people to feed their ballots into the slot then give them their "I voted" stickers. But I noticed that each of the machine judges, when it was their turn to work the ballot counters, had a way of hamming it up a little.
As for me, I liked to make an event out of the picture of a flag that popped up on the machine screen a few moments after each ballot was successfully scanned and counted.
I especially enjoyed fussing over the children who'd accompanied their parents to the polls. After their parents had inserted their ballots I'd say to the children, "Now you have a job to do. Watch and see if the flag pops up, if it pops up then we're good...watch for it...watch for it..." They'd watch, their little faces wide-eyed with expectation. "...Ah! There it is! The vote is counted! Good job watching!" At that point the children would invariably burst into a smile, and I'd give each a sticker for their good watching work. For me that was the most fun of the day.
I was also rather amazed at how smoothly the day went, at the constant sea of people rolling in and out, and how the process ticked along like clockwork.
One time while I was working the ballot counter I noticed a person standing away from the ballot counter holding onto their ballot. They looked troubled. When I waved them over they hesitantly approached then meekly told me that they had accidentally pushed the wrong box and voted wrong. There was no way of fixing it, was there?
I assured them that yes, if they voted wrong they could fix it! I called the voting location manager over and he got them sorted out and their vote cast as they wanted it. For me that was the most satisfying moment of the day.
By the last half hour the voters were down to a trickle, but trickle in they did up until a few moments before 7:30pm, when we officially closed our polling site, along with all the other polling sites across Ohio.
We spent one more hour tallying the votes and taking down the machines. We learned that almost 1900 people had voted at our location alone. Across the state over 3,000,000 Ohioans voted on this day. By the time we'd finished closing up and taking down the machines some news outlets were already calling the race. Within a few hours the final results were in.
And I was one happy machine judge.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTPN7NYY
by Patti Liszkay
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"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.