OP-ED: I was a poll worker for the 2020 Presidential Election

6 mins read

Prior to this year, I’ve never even voted in any election in my life. However, in what turned out to be one of the most controversial elections in United States history, I had cast my first ever ballot to make my voice heard. To me, however, that wasn’t enough. That’s why I decided to work at a local polling station on Election Day.

Getting the job was quite simple, as all I had to do was go online and fill out some basic information about myself. From there I got a call inquiring whether I was still interested, which I confirmed I was. However, it didn’t really hit me that I was actually working the polls until I had to complete my mandatory training. As a poll coordinator, I had the task of directing voters to the right election district table. In addition, I had to maintain social distancing within the building and know how to fix jams on various machines. The training for this was perhaps the longest three hours of my life. We watched video after video until it felt as if my eyes were going to bleed. The same boring voice went on for what seemed like days. Eventually, we got to sit up and actually get some hands-on experience clearing jams on various machines. This was exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for this. Not. Regardless of how “entertaining” the training session was, the information I learned was critical not only for my performance, but also for the preservation of our democracy.

A month passed before the big, bad Election Day finally came around. I woke up at five in the morning to ensure I had enough time to get to my location. Voting started at six am sharp, so there was no room for being late. I eventually made my way to the location, albeit still half asleep, and to my surprise everybody was already there. I was intimidated at first, but everyone there greeted me with open arms. Since I was new, I slowly made my way through the opening tasks I had, awaiting my partner. It’s worth noting that every polling location has  Democratic and Republican counterparts for each position to ensure everything is done in a bipartisan manner and that there is no voter fraud.

However, it was already 5:50 a.m. and my partner still hadn’t arrived. I had to rush through the rest of my tasks to ensure that I was at the front door ready to greet my fellow Americans. The first hour was a complete disaster, because of my aforementioned phantom partner, and two other election districts were missing a poll coordinator as well. Typically, poll workers look to the coordinator for guidance, but this was my first time and I didn’t have an experienced partner to bounce ideas off of. Still, I, along with my election worker crew, managed to work through the rush. The first hour was by far the busiest and most stressful period the whole day. From then on, it was just cleaning privacy booths, fixing machines, and helping out voters as they came in.

I certainly faced a couple of challenges while on the job though. What do you do when someone who hasn’t registered in their district wants to vote? What if a person moved? Do they have to register again under their new address or should you send them to their old polling location? With the guidance of one of my coworkers I was able to get through all of the nuances. Working with my coworkers was extremely weird in all honesty. It was like we were living together for the day. For 16 hours we all ate, conversed, and sometimes slept in the same space with complete strangers. It was definitely weird interacting and building relationships with these people knowing I probably would never see them again.

But, at the end of the day, the voters got to vote, and their voices were heard. That’s all that matters. However, it’s extremely upsetting seeing the President of the United States try to de-legitimize the election because of alleged “voter fraud.” It’s quite disheartening, as it feels like he doesn’t value the hard work us poll workers put in. Regardless, we did our jobs, and the nation’s people were the true beneficiaries of it.

Holden Velasco

Editor-in-Chief at The Knight News. Queens. Sports. Writing. CUNY Product. NetsDaily at SB Nation. New York Times Corps member. Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Formerly SLAM.

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