I was an election judge in a recent state primary election in August, and I will be an election judge on Nov. 3 for the national election. An election judge or precinct judge is a poll worker.
In Minnesota, it’s easy to track an absentee ballot online. Attempting to vote twice as a way to double-check is illegal. The absentee ballot I requested came in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and I have already filled it out and delivered it to my county elections office.
Voting absentee or by mail isn’t about being lazy. It’s about protecting yourself and others — including volunteer poll workers — during a pandemic. The median age for a poll worker (61) is even higher than that of a Realtor (55) by six years.
I volunteered because of the pandemic. I’m concerned that there won’t be enough poll workers or that some polls will be closed or that there will be long lines, and some voters will just give up and walk away. I know real estate professionals from all around the country who will be working at the polls on Nov. 3.
The polls need to be open on Election Day. There are people who can’t navigate the system for getting an absentee ballot, and there are people who feel strongly that it’s their duty and right to vote in person.
Going forward, I hope each state gets the funds needed to revamp the election system so we can all vote from home. It blows my mind that I can deposit a check for several thousand dollars into my bank account with an app on my phone, but the only way I can vote is with pen and paper.
When it comes to voting in person, there are people who need a little extra help. When they go to the polling place, they can ask questions and get answers. There’s a machine that reads to voters who can’t see, and election judges can go outside and help people who have trouble getting into the polling place.
Election judges can’t recommend a candidate or even comment on anything that is political or related to the candidates or their parties on Election Day. It’s a day of being disconnected from the news and from our electronic devices and a day to focus on helping others.
Like real estate, elections are regulated on the state and local level, and actual policies and procedures may be different where you live. Where I live, the system is both electronic and manual. There are redundant systems that can be used if there’s a power outage.
Once every hour, everything is counted, and the counts have to balance. They have to match the number displayed on the front of the ballot machine. There is a final count of receipts for ballots — cast ballots and unused ballots — after the polls close. Every ballot must be accounted for before we leave.
There are many checks and balances. If someone has already voted, they can’t vote again. If they are at the wrong precinct, they are redirected to the correct precinct. The same systems are in place for ballots that are mailed in.
The polling place I worked at is in a gym, so social distancing was easy. There were plastic shields in between election judges and voters. Election judges wore masks, and so did most of the voters. However, some wouldn’t. People without masks are allowed to vote.
There were spray bottles with disinfectant, and we used them to disinfect surfaces touched by voters. There were bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere.
One of the most rewarding parts of the experience for me was answering questions and helping people get registered to vote. In Minnesota, unregistered voters can register at the polls on Election Day. There were voters who had just turned 18 and were voting for the first time.
People thanked us for being there as they grabbed their “I voted” sticker and that final squirt of hand sanitizer as they exited the polling place.
During my 16 hours, I helped open and close the polls, worked as a ballot judge, as a greeter and as a poll pad judge looking up the names of registered voters. I learned how to register voters and how to set up and take down each piece of equipment used for voting. The hours flew by.
There’s a need for poll workers in many states. It might not be too late to volunteer. Go to your county website or to your secretary of state website to get information about being a poll worker and volunteer if you can.
Some employers give employees time off with pay to work at the polls on Election Day. That’s another great way to give back to the community.
Once the polls close, it’s the election judges who do a lot of the counting and verifying. Then, they put everything away so that it’s ready for the next election.
Poll workers never see the ballots after they’ve been cast or know how people voted. The voting machine does the counting and transmits the results to the elections office.
People who can vote with an absentee ballot or who can vote in person before the election should do so. That will make it less crowded and safer at the polls. Voters who plan on voting on Election Day should try to go during off times like the middle of the morning or afternoon.
Working as an election judge is not an opportunity to prospect, market or to promote a brand. Heck, people I’ve known most of my adult life didn’t even recognize me behind my mask.
There may be some civil unrest on Election Day, and there could be disruption at the polling places. There are rules and procedures for handling that, too. Let’s hope it all goes smoothly — and that the results are honored and everyone gets to vote.