Election Day Ramblings From Long Time Poll Workers


Rest assured, election day ramblings are nothing new, especially from longtime poll workers. Many people might wonder what poll workers are thinking or even dreaming about while processing numerous voters’ ballots throughout the day. It does not matter whether a voter is a Democrat, Republican, or non-party affiliation. Some of these thoughts might be surprising or even unexpected while others will be quite commonplace. Nonetheless, these ramblings should be explored and addressed. As such, here are some election day ramblings from longtime poll workers.

  1. ElectionVoters Should Have Their Voting Card or ID ReadyIt is important to note that ID is not required in most states, namely New York, in order to vote. However, instead of having to spell out or publicly announce their name and/or address for verification purposes, it is quicker and more efficient to simply have ID on hand for poll workers to look up a voter’s information. This consideration allows for voters to sign-in and be allocated their ballot faster, as well as helps preserve the privacy of the voter’s vital statistics.
  2. Visit the Restrooms Before Getting in Line–Election materials cannot leave the designated voting area. Election officials are responsible for every ballot and all related materials. Once a ballot is issued, the voter must complete their ballot and cast it before they can leave the area to visit the restroom. Therefore, a voter should either visit the bathroom before getting in line or make sure it can wait until after their voting activities are completed.
  3. Voting Ballots Are Not Take-Home Projects–As outlined in number two above, election materials cannot leave the designated voting area and poll workers are responsible for all election-related materials. Therefore, voters must sign-in to the poll book or arrange for a paper affidavit ballot to be completed at the poll site. Voters who are listed in the poll book can cast their ballots via the optical scan voting machine(s) present at the poll site. Meanwhile, those voters who are not listed in the poll book can receive affidavit ballots, which are sealed in specified envelopes and returned to the poll workers at the polling site. These paper ballots are not cast on the machine. Instead, they are sent back to the local Board of Elections (BOE) for verification. The BOE determines the validity of the ballot as well as the voter’s eligibility. It is part of the BOE’s job to determine if an affidavit ballot can be counted or not during an election. Either way, anyone who casts an affidavit ballot will receive a notice in the mail detailing the reason(s) why their ballot was accepted or denied. Moreover, if someone completes an affidavit ballot, they will be registered or re-registered to vote, according to the information provided on the affidavit ballot envelope.
  4. Columns vs. Rows–One election day rambling from longtime poll workers that never grows old or goes away is the confusion that exists among voters over columns and rows. When it comes time to mark the ballot, many voters seem to forget how to distinguish between the two. This, in turn, results in either over or under-voting of the ballot. This situation leads to the voter having to request a new ballot while their original ballot is voided by the poll workers. Whether it is an election day phenomenon remains to be seen, but voters should keep in mind that columns go up and down while rows go across.
  5. ElectionMarkers Only, Please–When voters arrive to cast their ballots, the ballots must be marked with the provided markers (aka Sharpies). No pens or pencils should be used on any ballots that are cast on the machines. This is because the residue from the pen ink and pencil graphite will cloud the optical scan lenses inside the voting machines. This issue can result in time-consuming and expensive maintenance requirements.
  6. No More Level Machines–For the voters who still inquire or make off-handed remarks regarding their desire for the resurrection of the old-school level voting machines, all 50 states are federally mandated to use optical scan electronic voting machines for elections. There were several reasons for the mandatory switch from level to electronic machines. Some of these reasons included that the parts can no longer be obtained for the level machines and each of those machines could only archive up to 999 votes. Moreover, the electronic machines have many safeguards against error and voter tampering, which the lever machines did not possess. Furthermore, each of the electronic voting machines can hold up to 4,000 votes per election.

This topic holds a special place in the heart and mind of the author, Leigh Haugh, who is a longtime poll worker and has witnessed many election day ramblings over her 15 years with the BOE. In addition to her work as a writer and editor at Guardian Liberty Voice, she continues to work with the Board of Elections every election season as a Poll Site Coordinator and Election Inspector. While many people might wonder what poll workers are thinking or even dreaming about while processing numerous voters’ ballots throughout the day, the main thought on the worker’s mind is to ensure the voter’s ballot is secure and properly cast, regardless of their party affiliation or lack thereof. In short, election day ramblings are certainly nothing new, especially from longtime poll workers.

Opinion Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh

Personal Experiences and Observations by the Author
New York State Board of Elections
All Article Images Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons – Creative Commons License