Election day for me started at 4:30A – it actually started around 3A when I woke up and struggled to drift off again. I hate that – waking up in the middle of the night to a level that I could get up and do something. It’s especially annoying when I have a big day coming up.
Prior to this day, I had worked some with a Native American democratic group whose goal was to assist Democrats in flipping some Republic seats in North Carolina. I am continually saddened by the state’s move to the right and its support of men (mostly) who seem to enjoy and support anger, hate and ignorance over love and joy.
Anyway election day started at the polling place around 5:45A for me and a couple of my colleagues. I was happy that our polling place was open and that someone was already in the building to let us in. Our temperatures were checked and we logged in. As chief judge, I had picked up equipment and ballots the day before at the Board of Election and everything needed to be set up by 6:30A, the opening of the poll. By the time we had set up the room, we had about 10 to 15 people arriving to vote. I went outside and attained a cell signal to order our breakfast from a local fast food restaurant. During the day, poll workers cannot leave the polling place so precincts had “runners” to bring breakfast & lunch. I planned on relieving workers to eat lunch as time permitted. We were so busy as the day progressed at least one of the workers ended the day without ever eating his lunch. I took maybe 10 minutes to gulp down half of my cuban sandwich and a few potato chips. I ate so quickly that I ended up biting my lip – ouch! Mostly I want water so I took a bottle from home and ordered two bottles for breakfast & two for lunch. It was enough to last through the day and I’m glad it was available.
Once the poll opened, voting was steady until we closed at 7:30P. I processed 26 provisional ballots – those are the requests to vote from individuals whose names might not appear on the voter rolls. For instance, there was a young person who had registered when he got his learner’s permit which means he was underage. He voted a provisional ballot. Those ballots will be reviewed in coming days by election officials and a decision will be made as to whether the vote will be counted. Those voters are given instructions on how to check to find out if their vote counted. For each provisional application, I had to call the election board to have them check the roll in our county and they would also check the roll in the adjacent county. Sometimes the voter was in the the wrong county. If that happened, they had a choice of voting provisionally in our county or driving to their own county to cast their ballot. So I spent a good portion of my time on the phone with the Board of Election checking on voters – sometimes I would have a queue and could check on several potential voters at once. The goal was not to turn anyone away that wanted to vote while ensuring their eligibility as much as possible.
As chief judge, I had to ensure that campaign boundaries were adhered to outside the polling place and at the end of the day, I went outside at 7:30 and announced to the darkness and empty parking lot that the “polls are closed! polls are closed!” I, along with the other two judges, drove to the Board of Elections office with the equipment and ballots. The other precinct workers were there along with election officials and a few law enforcement officers. Prior to that, though, we had to break down all the voting boothes, sanitize and break down the tables, clean and sweep the polling place, and take up any official signs for the election. We endeavored to leave the room in as clean and sanitized condition as possible.
In all, I worked for straight 15 hours. I feel privileged to be a part of this process and even when the vote doesn’t result in what I would like, it doesn’t negate my feeling of accomplishment that I was a part of the democratic process. What does make me sad is that some voters may come in at the behest of others and vote without knowing or understanding why they are being asked to vote in that way.
In the aftermath of the day, I drove home from the BOE office listening to my favorite Jack Reacher novel feeling bone tired and hopeful for a new day.