How I came to love being an election inspector

By Trish Adams
First off, let me be perfectly clear, let there be no misunderstanding: It’s not about the economy, stupid. It’s not even about Job Creation. Being an Election Inspector is all about the food.
Think about it, if you are going to get up at 5 a.m., get to your polling station by 5:30 to help set up and get your paperwork in order, then be ready for the 15-hour haul from 6 a.m. to the 9 p.m. and not get home until 9:30 or 10 p.m., there’d better be plenty of junk food on hand. And some homemade goodies. And a homemade dinner with all the fixings. And the Church Ladies' Dinner of Chicken and Biscuits if you really want to go all out. Just think how soon the election falls after Hallowe'en. Everyone gets a vote AND a treat.

Of course, in these days of electronic new-fangledness, some of us still pine for the good old days with the toggle-vote machines and that satisfying clunky sound when you swung the lever to vote. Did you know those machines needed no electricity? The only reason you plugged them in was to have the overhead light. You could vote in a power outage if you had to. And there were those "quaint" polling stations of yesteryear, such as the historic Vega Hall (only after you signed up did you learn that "historic" meant no indoor toilet.)

Who wants the job?
Why would anyone want this job, even if it does pay pretty well for a very, very long day? I have to admit that the minute I was asked, I couldn't wait! I thought you might need extensive training or maybe have to be elected to work at the polls. But all you have to do is go to an Election Inspector's Class and be willing to sit. As a political junkie, to be the trusted guardian of the sacred right to vote sent chills up my spine, as well as being in the "hot seat" of democracy as it happens. I told my partner, Jill, when I started, “You know those nice little old ladies you always see at the polls. Well, this is how they all got their start!”

The only time I ever lock my car is the day I pick up my district’s election bag, which contains the unmarked ballots for our voters. That car stays locked, even in my driveway overnight. No one is going to steal MY election!

The rules do matter
What kind of folks work at the polls? Well, in a place where the rules really do matter (i.e. they are the law you are sworn to uphold and you could be convicted of criminal wrongdoing if you get sloppy), you will find some serious sticklers for doing things absolutely the right way. I would count Nancy Mattice, Pat Davis, Betty Sherwood and myself in the “almost OCD” category.

You really have to know the difference between an affadavit ballot and an emergency one, and when someone is not in the poll book, you have to call Delhi and not look like a deer in the headlights. You have to go as far as you possibly can to give someone the right to vote without breaking the law. You have to know exactly where that line is.

Family affair
Then there are a whole host of folks who always serve at the polls and probably have something they would rather do, but everyone in their family is involved in community service and you always show up. Some of them have relatives in elected office or long service in the fire department, like Barbara Vigna, Mary Hynes, MaryEllen Schumann and Sarah Cronk. All of us share the conviction that the right to vote wouldn't mean much if you threw an election and no one came to man the polls.

Or rather, woman the polls
Almost all the Election Inspectors I work with are women, a throwback possibly to the days when homemakers could do the job while Dad went off to work. These days, it means we are usually retirement age or older or have flexible schedules, or have to take the day off work. We do usually have the one fellow, Pat Davis, who is brave enough to come to the Hen Party. He is very cheerful about putting things together and taking them apart as needed.

A long day
How do you get through a 16-hour (or in the case of the primaries 9-hour) day? The actual work is fun, when you have some action: you have to find the voter's name in the poll book, have him or her sign, give them their ballot and explain anything unusual about it, initial the person’s signature and ballot number, check their name off the poll listing and keep a separate tabulated list of voters of your own. That's why two or three people will be busy when you have voters: there are multiple checks and balances in place.