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Inside Beat

Necessary work: My poll working experience during 2020 presidential election

Although mail-in ballots were a popular and safe option during the 2020 election, some polling stations were open for in-person voting.  – Photo by Wikimedia

Nov. 3 was not your regular day where you wake up, attend class, do homework and go to bed. Instead, it was wake-up at 4:30 a.m., drive to my assigned polling location, transform a large gym into a voter location, help either overly enthusiastic or completely oblivious voters, close the poll at approximately 8 p.m. and then drive back home to await the results. 

If you haven’t caught on at this point or haven’t read this article’s title, I was volunteering as a poll worker during this election. This election was arguably the most important election to date — at least in my lifetime. 

Being a poll worker during the 2020 election was no easy task. We began our day at 5:15 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m. with an hour break. There were approximately 11 other volunteers, and where I worked, every volunteer was over the age of 25. All of the volunteers were nice and kind, but not all of them put in the same amount of work as other volunteers. 

During the 14-hour shift, I worked as both a cleaner and the envelope instructor (there was no exact name for my positions so I came up with some random names).

Essentially, I wiped all tables and chairs in fear of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and showed all voters how to fill out the overly complicated envelopes. For those who voted in-person, you would get why the envelopes were confusing but if you did mail-in (like me) your lives were much easier.

One might think filling out the ballots and envelopes was easy, but no. Some voters took more than an hour to fill everything out while some accidentally ripped the envelopes due to a tear-away dotted line section (which I think was a design flaw) that even had bold letters running across from it saying “DO NOT TEAR.” 

There were so many mistakes happening during the first few hours of the day. Voters forgot to register or simply did not know if they should bubble, circle or check their chosen candidates. Many voters didn’t read any of the instructions on the ballot or envelope and assumed what to do, which my colleagues and I caught on quickly so we began to give “tutorials” on how to do everything. 

It was exhausting work, especially during lunch and dinner hours. During those times, a flow of people came in and began a long line. I always tried to clean each chair and table quickly with a hand sanitizer spray and Clorox wipes, and when I gave “tutorials,” I spoke fast in hopes that the voter would catch everything I said and I could help the next person.

Most voters were kind and sweet, and I didn’t really meet any crazy characters during my time volunteering. But there were multiple cases of voters questioning who I, a poll worker, voted for.

One lady even asked me, “Are you a (President Donald J.) Trump supporter or for the Right party, the (Joe) Biden and (Kamala) Harris party”? Of course, I didn’t answer as it would be unprofessional — but to be clear, I am for a safe and united America. I voted for the Democratic Party, Biden and Harris.   

As an observer, I did notice that Trump voters were much more vocal and aggressive. You might think I am biased as I voted for Biden, but I'm reporting what I genuinely experienced.

Many Trump voters came with “Trump 2020” masks or a hat with Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again.” I remember specifically a man in a red Trump hat that I was told to give a “tutorial” to. He commented to me, albeit nicely, saying “I am only voting for one person, bud, and his name is right here on the top” while pointing to Trump's bubble. 

Overall, my experience as a poll worker during the 2020 election was tiring yet fruitful. I had the opportunity to meet incredible people, either those I worked with or the voters conversing with me. I think that this year’s election was insane as many voters told me that previous elections had electronic voting devices, but I guarantee I would redo everything again!

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