One election official’s view

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    I live in a rural Virginia County and I’m an election official.

    “Election official” means I am one of the people working at the polling place . . . when you come in, I’m the person who checks your ID, or points you to the voting booth, or shows you where to deposit your ballot, or takes a ballot out to the car so your invalid mother can vote.

    We all are volunteers. Our training consists of a two-hour session conducted by our county registrar about a week before the election. The county pays us $100 plus mileage.

    We must be at the polling place at 5:00 AM and we cannot leave until after the votes are tabulated; machines opened and closed and tapes run according to very specific step-by-step instructions that do not allow any errors; ballots sealed in boxes; voting machines opened, memory cards removed, cards placed in sealed envelopes; all envelopes sealed and signed; voting machines re-sealed; seal numbers recorded; a complicated Statement of Results filled out by hand and signed; and on and on and on.

    In my case, I’m at a small polling place with about 1,800 registered voters in our district. In the 5 November election, 985 votes were cast at our precinct; we closed the polls at 7:00 PM but we did not leave until 9:30 PM . . . that sounds like a 16-1/2 hour day, from 5:00 AM until 9:30 PM, but it’s much more than that.

    In order to be at the polls at 5:00 AM, I got up at 3:30, cooked and ate breakfast, showered, dressed, and drove 10 miles. I carried with me a cooler containing my lunch. After the polls closed and we completed all the poll-closing work, I helped the chief at our polling place load all the paperwork, voting machines, signs, etc., etc., into his SUV. We drove to the courthouse, hauled all the stuff from his car into the registrar’s office, went through a checklist, and turned in everything. I got home at 10:30 PM, was in bed at 11:00 PM – – – my day, then, was 3:30 AM – 11:00 PM . . . you do the math.

    Five people worked at my polling place — I’m 69, the chief is 75, and the youngest is 65 – – – by the time the polls close at 7:00 PM, all us old folks are dragging ass and we still have 2 hours or more to go. I suspect the same is the case at the Richmond polls.

    I fully understand how tired poll workers at the Richmond poll could overlook one machine. While we dealt only with 985 voters, I suspect they had 3 -4 times that many, or more; after all, they’re in Richmond (population over 200,000), we are in a rural county, total population under 12,000

    And . . . the official results are tabulated at the courthouse by our three-person county election board, all three of whom are age 65 – 70. Their day started the same as mine, around 3:30 AM . . . and they don’t get out of the courthouse until after midnight.

    And now, a week after the election, they have to re-tabulate the results with teevee cameras and lawyers breathing down their necks.

    Hell of a way to run an election.