Working at a polling place is luck of the draw. As the inspector, the person responsible for a particular precinct, I am assigned clerks I’ve never met. Sometimes I have struck out, but last Tuesday I cracked a Buster Posey-esque grand slam. The complete strangers I worked with – Bill, Conrado, Cierra, Aaron and Norma – performed incredibly.
No one whined, all were efficient and had a great attitude and best of all, a sense of humor. We often found times during the insanity of a packed polling place to lighten the mood.
One thing different this election was we had an observer there the entire day. He was a very nice guy, but his job was to see if there were things that were hinky. There is a law that the precinct’s street index that hangs outside be updated hourly until 6 p.m.
Well, that’s not possible when you are swamped from the time you open, because to update it, you have to use the index that is being used to process voters.
The observer was cool about telling me he had to “call it in” because we weren’t doing it and he understood why. I told him I didn’t care. He took it to mean I was defensive or upset, but that was not what I meant. I literally did not care. That was not the most important thing – processing voters was.
It reminded me of when I worked as a bagger at the Lucky supermarket on North Texas Street. One day, the manager told me to clean the mat customers step on to open the glass exit doors. Well after he left it became very busy and I was helping customers and did not get a chance to do it.
The next day he railed at me for not cleaning it and when I tried to tell him I was helping customers, he said that he wanted me to do what he told me to do first. So after that, when we became busy and checkers called me, I would tell them that the boss told me that I had to do my task first. Consequently, customers suffered.
There was no way I was going to make people wait in a line that I could not see the end of while we updated something that one person from a union came to check.
Highlights of the day:
The Registrar of Voters office is very good at listening to feedback from the army of temporary workers they recruit every election. Some of the things I have seen them add in response to requests are laminated “Start Here” signs, clips to hold those pesky street indexes outside, and this election they made the signature lines in the roster upside down facing voters so the book didn’t need to be flipped each time.
In that vein, a poll workers manual that is more like a quick start guide with an alphabetized index of situations and corresponding page numbers would be most helpful.
At 7:55 p.m., I went outside and told the throng that they would all vote but at 8 p.m. anyone behind me could not by law. At 7:58 p.m., a woman ran up and became the last voter. At 8:07 p.m., I had to give some guy the bad news.
I felt awful that the guy couldn’t vote, but my precinct with the dream team of workers had 1,650 registered voters in it and we helped 1,050 – about 80 per hour – exercise their American right and privilege to vote. Not bad.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.