As we prep for the upcoming 2019 state and local elections and look towards 2020, those of us on the left are increasingly worried about the future of voting rights. Every time we look at the news, it seems another Republican scheme is afoot to reduce participation in elections by people of color, students, city dwellers, and other Democratic constituencies, usually under the bogus guise of preventing “voter fraud.” There are lots of ways we can fight this, but I have not seen anyone suggest a way we can act locally. So here is one–sign up to be an election official.
I’ve been an election officer in Fairfax County for almost two decades now, and served as my precinct chief for many of them. When I take the oath before each election, I promise to uphold the law and to act in a nonpartisan manner. I take that seriously and follow the law faithfully. So do most of the other election officers with whom I’ve worked–from both major parties, as well as independents.
However, I have noticed that some poll workers and poll watchers are far more likely to impede a voter trying to exercise their rights and, by golly, they have always been Republican. I’ve seen them questioning valid IDs, preventing voters from carrying Democratic sample ballots into the poll booth, claiming a voter was voting twice because “they recognized his sweater,” etc. I’ve done my duty and protected the voter’s rights. And I reported these efforts to hinder voters to the county.
For the Republicans reading this, yes, I’ve refused ballots to people who were not eligible, even when I strongly suspected they supported the same candidate I did. Generally they were not registered, or were registered in another state and just moved here, that sort of thing. I do issue provisional ballots when the law says we should. And if it’s just a matter of registering the voter, we have them fill out the form then and there to submit it to the county. We’ve yet to see the actual “fraud” the Republicans rant about. But the petty harassment of voters always seems to come from the right wing. I wonder why that is???
Yes, it’s a long day. Very long. I used to work 12 hours shifts in a former job, and that was easy compared to election day, which runs from 5 am to 8 or 9 pm. The pay is not great. Sometimes it is deadly, deadly dull, especially during a primary with low turnout. Not every polling place is comfortable.
On the other hand, most of the other election workers, regardless of party, are friendly and fun to talk with. (Although the guy who loved right-wing websites and kept ranting about George Soros was a pain.) I’ve made good friends as a poll worker that I look forward to seeing even outside of election day.
Best of all, you know you helped preserve our democracy and did something to protect people’s right to vote.
If you can spare a day to help guard our right to full suffrage, please contact your county and volunteer. The upcoming 2019 election is important, and 2020 will be even more so.