I have wanted to be a poll worker for many years, but the task seemed daunting. Election workers in many states have to work long shifts, from 5 a.m. until after polls close, usually after 7 p.m. This year I was finally motivated to sign up given the need for poll workers during the pandemic.
The process to become an election judge began with an application. I have to credit Power the Polls, which sent an email and inspired me to look into working the polls in my state. I submitted my application to the clerk in my county in Illinois and soon heard back about the next steps. Once my application was approved, I signed up for online training, which consisted of training guides and videos, along with quizzes. I passed all the quizzes and completed the training over the course of a couple of days. (It was several hours total.)
Weeks later I received another email about signing up for in-person practice sessions. I traveled to a local country club, where training was offered. Our desks were more than 6 feet apart and participants wore masks and used hand sanitizer. After this session I felt a little less nervous about being a poll worker.
I also received an email assignment for Election Day. I was assigned a precinct near my neighborhood in the Chicago area. It was only a few miles from my house. The day before the Election, our team of judges and a polling place technician met up at the polling location to set up. We put up the signs and made sure everything was good to go with the technology, including scanner, touchscreens and printers.
On Election Day, I was nervous. I arrived at 5 a.m., which is must earlier than I usually wake up. I had forgotten my manual at home, so we had to share the copy provided to us. I felt like I didn’t have the process memorized but after the initial 30 minutes or so I got the hang of things. Checking most people in is pretty standard, and only a few people had special circumstances to resolve.
We were provided PPE: masks, hand sanitizer, face shields, gloves and disinfectant wipes. I wiped down the pens we used after every voter, along with the touchscreen voter cards. I also wore a couple of filters under my mask. Most voters kept their distance as much as possible and everyone wore masks. We also avoided touching any IDs or other objects from voters. If they wanted to show an ID I tried to have them hold it up for me when possible.
We received a list of early voters, and it turned out most people in that precinct had already voted. The location was not as busy as I anticipated, but that’s OK. We had breaks between the waves of voters. Most people were in great spirits and were excited to vote. I even was able to sign a few people up to vote on Election Day. Illinos is one of the states that allows Election Day voter registration.
The team was composed of two judges from election political party along with a PPT, as I mentioned. Everything is checked by members of each party. This makes everything fair. It’s reassuring that these measures are in place.
My day at the polls went smoothly. Once polls closed we did all of the transmitting and cleaning up. Then I was tasked to drop off the ballots in a secure, sealed bag to the courthouse, along with a judge from the opposite party. All judges signed everything as we sealed it. I was nervous as I drove to the courthouse with such important baggage in my trunk, but it was also exhilarating. We submitted the baggage and sealed envelopes and our day as election judges was over! It was after 8:30 p.m. when I arrived home.
I am grateful for the experience and I will do it again! There is always a need for poll workers who speak different languages, so if that is you I highly recommend working at the polls.
Have you ever been a poll worker?