Write Team: Working the mid-term election

I arrived at the polls at 5:30 a.m. with snacks, a thermos of coffee, the Tribune, and my kindle reader, which I never found time to read.

The polls open at 6. We were set up the day before, a row of tables for each precinct, polling booths against the wall, tabulator stand in place-but there was more to do. That morning we hooked up the closed-circuit WiFi, installed and plugged in the tabulator (simply an optical scanner over a locked steel box), connected the tablet computer to the label printer and we were ready to go. We ran the zero tapes from the tabulator and signed them, signed various other forms, took the oath, and before we knew it the polls were open.

We had five people waiting to vote before 6 a.m. It stayed like that most of the day. Unusual for a mid-term. Usually, it takes the draw of a presidential race, like 2020, to bring out the number of voters we saw in 2022. It was hard to eat lunch, tenderloins cooked and delivered from Ottawa’s American Legion, because of the crush of voters.

We had four election judges at our precinct, as did the other precinct that shared our voting site. I was glad to see that. It was slim during the pandemic. Judges are balanced as to party affiliation, and no judge has more power than another in making decisions. Keeping order, confirming the identity of people requesting ballots, determining they are registered to vote in the precinct, and matching the number of ballots with the number of persons voting at the end of the day are the duties of election judges.

We had few if any problems during a very busy election. When questions arose, we agreed on the answers as a group. People who had to cast provisional ballots, produce previously mailed ballots to be spoiled before voting in the booth, or who registered on site before voting all accepted our decisions calmly. Our training prepared us to make those calls. We have good written manuals for reference, and the county clerk’s office is available to help if needed. Improved technology, especially tablet computers, have helped us very much.

I became an election judge after I retired in 2013 and have worked at every election since. I marvel at accusations of voting fraud in America. From my experience, the system works because it is so localized. I work in the precinct in which I live. I know many of the voters and am familiar with their addresses because they are my neighbors. I know my fellow election judges as well. The checks and balances are baked in.

I don’t doubt for a second the accuracy and validity of the vote totals for my precinct. I was there from start to finish. I held the ballots in my hands and counted them with my fellow judges after the polls closed. The number of ballots scanned by the tabulator and the number of ballots we counted as a group matched. I signed the tapes detailing votes per candidate because I knew they were accurate.

Voter participation was the clear winner in this mid-term election. It’s the most encouraging trend yet. We truly have free and fair elections. Be glad. Accept the outcomes. They’re real.

  • Dave McClure lives in Ottawa. He is a long-retired director of a local private agency. He is also a blogger. You can read more of Dave at Daveintheshack.blogger.com