I really did not want to do it. Be a poll worker. Aside from the truly sucky hours (show up at 5:00 a.m. and leave sometime after 9:00 p.m.), virus. I have low virus tolerance. But I kept hearing about the need. Then my two best friends out here signed up and I had no excuse. I went to the training and when I had to take the oath, I kind of choked up a bit (yay masks). I told one of the women I worked with yesterday that it felt like I was tasked with holding up democracy. She said that she understood and that it did feel that way.
I would say that we generally had few glitches, aside from the pandemic related ones. First, we had a guy show up without a mask and would not wear one. The protocol for this is to clear all the other voters out of the polling place and then let the maskless in to vote. Somehow, a local police officer convinced the guy to put a mask on. It may have helped that all of the folks on the line behind him were getting aggravated. So that was an unpleasant situation.
We had one woman and a family of three show up to vote and at least came clean that they were positive for the virus. It was a little nerve wracking. It was simple enough to deal with the one woman (she got a wide berth and everyone stayed away from her) but the family of three was a bit rougher. To their credit they were masked and they had face shields. But, we had no training on what to do in this situation, at least I did not. The family of three were kept together. They all used the same voting booth. It was deep cleaned as soon as they left. But it was used after that. It all seemed a little cavalier to me. I think that a better solution would have been to maybe have them vote via affidavit outside of the building. That way they would not have come in and they could have still exercised their right to vote.
We had a lot of young white men dressed like they were going to go hunting. They mostly wore gaiters and not masks. For some reason, those always strike me as almost threatening. I don’t know why. We had a mom and a daughter and a dad with a son who came to take pictures of their kids voting for the first time. At the very end of the night, a family with three small kids came in. The two oldest, not more than maybe five and four, came over to a man who was scooting himself across the gym floor in his wheelchair and got behind to push him. It was a moment of laughter and levity. It was a moment where people who may have been vastly different ideologically shared something. A small piece. If only that could happen more often.
Some of the work at the polling site requires individuals of different parties to work together. At our site, we were thick with “D”s with a scattering of “I”s and very few “R”s. The one R that stands out in my mind is the older gentleman in a large suede cowboy hat with a feather on the front. He wore flannel and cowboy boots and his mask seemed to be homemade with a plastic frame on the outside that barely covered his mouth and nose and stuck out in a very snout-like way. It was lined with something that could have been part of an old sock. He really came across as a typical grumpy old man but when I was assigned to check people in with him, I decided that I would go with it. We had a rush at the outset and I ran the check in on what is basically an ipad like thing. When we slowed down I had him take the lead. He was a little slow and seemed a bit technologically challenged like my mom. We had a lull and he made some small talk. He asked if I was married. I told him I was unmarried. He asked where I worked. I told him for a health insurer. I asked if he was retired. He said that was and that he was a pilot. Then he turned his attention to the poll pad we used for check in. He went on to tell me that the technology in the instrument was alien from a UFO crash in South Africa. I think that I actually told him that I did not think that was true. He told me that he had a video of the crash. He told me that people who saw the crash, who somehow survived, had picked up technology, put it in their pockets and walked away. Then I took a dinner break.
Part of me is endlessly amused at this. But the other part of me is just frightened. This denial of science and willingness to accept fiction as fact. When I got home from poll working, after 10:00 p.m, I opened a beer and got in the shower. I did not watch the returns. I really can’t. My anxiety is off the scale. And even if we end up with a new president, the more heartbreaking thing is that most of the people in this country are happy to embrace the racism and the anger and the thoughtlessness and the divisiveness. I replay the “parade” that came through my town. Those people scared me. It seemed as though they felt like they had the right to do whatever they wanted. Like stopping traffic on major roadways. It feels like the country is circling the drain.
But working the polls felt important. It felt democratic. Because who thinks that all the votes should not count? Not me.