Adventures in Working the Poles

Several weeks ago I started exploring the possibility of helping out with the election as a poll worker. I wasn’t particularly interested in working on election day at a polling site, but 80% of my state votes by mail so I knew there would be work to do related to transporting and processing the ballots.

I have been locked down pretty tight for 7 months and unfortunately covid cases are on the rise again, but I’m pretty confident the risk will be kept as low as possible. I just figure this election is very important, and I want the ballots to be counted quickly and accurately. So I’m willing to let my guard down a bit for a few weeks.

I went through an online application process, a brief phone interview, and a background check.

I found out yesterday that I will be starting work on Monday at the Ballot Tabulation Center. Signature verification has been ongoing since ballots were mailed last week, but we can’t actually start counting ballots until 2 weeks before election day. So Monday is training day and we go to work on Tuesday. I’ll be working with bipartisan teams to determine “the intent of the voter” in cases where the ballot can’t be ready by the machine. As an aside, it’s sort of mind-blowing that they allow this work to be done by OFP (ordinary fucking people) with a few hours of training.

If nothing else, I’m hopeful that keeping super-busy will free my mind from election-related anxiety for the next couple of weeks.

So is anybody else working as a poll worker? If not, maybe this will just be my temporary blog. :-)

Apologies to anybody who thought this thread would be about me trying to make it in the adult entertainment industry.


Sounds like it’ll be interesting. A friend was part of the counting for the last French Presidential election and hearing his trip report was enjoyable.

Here it’s all done on the night in each polling location, and he was one third of many teams of three that opened and counted ballots. I’m not sure he had any training beyond what he got on the night, but you don’t actually mark ballots here, you just put a pre-printed piece of paper in an envelope (after having to take at least two candidate’s pieces of paper into the booth with you to stuff the envelope.)

One of his team was apparently a woman in her 80s who claimed to have never left her arrondissement (a sub-division of Paris) which is about 1/2 a square mile of the City, and which has no visible borders apart from the street signs having a different number underneath according to which one you’re in. I’d guess this sort of public service attracts ‘characters’ all over the world, so enjoy!

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I will not be working the polls myself but I’m in for stories from the people that do.

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Thank you so much for doing this. We need more people under the age of 80 working the polls!

As for me, the reason my paid gig goes until Nov 15th is because after the election, we’ll be sitting observing the ballot counters all day in SD county to ensure there are no shenanigans. our race in particular is going to be down to the wire, and might not be decided until every mail ballot is counted. A lot of campaigns do this, so don’t freak out if there are reps there from local or national campaigns.

If I hadn’t gotten this job, I would have signed up to be a poll worker.

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Training Day!

So imagine 20 pc workstations (with large portrait monitors) in the corner of a big room that also contains a bunch of high-speed counting machines. Four rows of five. Each station seats a team of two judges and is separated by a plastic barrier. Unfortunately pretty close proximity in both directions.

The software is actually pretty impressive. I had imagined we would be looking at real ballots, but there’s a program that just pulls images of ballots from an adjudication queue. It comes in with an overlay that includes red boxes around contests that were flagged for some reason, green areas for votes that were counted, yellow areas for stray marks that were not counted but maybe should be looked at, etc. The overlay can be toggled on and off.

All actions (votes added, votes removed, write-ins, etc.) get logged on paper by the team and that list of actions is reconciled at the end of the day with the actions that the mainframe logged from that workstation.

So today’s training was basically: temperature check on the way in, some HR paperwork, orientation (bathrooms, break room, lunch time, etc.), a classroom lecture where we are shown many examples of typical adjudication actions and how they are logged, and finally a hands-on session where we walk through the same examples to practice using the software and logging.

My main takeaway from the training is that we are going to amazing lengths to try like hell to give people the votes they intended. Most people are probably very careful with their ballots, assuming that stray marks or crossouts or whatever are going to cause problems and maybe spoil your whole ballot.

But some people apparently just circle the names of candidates, or circle the bubbles without filling them in. These ballots get flagged for adjudication because they are perceived to be blank. Then, assuming the intent is clear and consistent, the poor judges have to mark and log a vote for every single contest. Some people apparently also vote for candidates and then also write in all their names. So all those write-ins have to be cleaned up.

Demographics: Probably 2/3 senior citizens, overwhelmingly white. About what I expected.

In summary, I’m pretty sure that people will go insane just looking at these endless ballots on screens for days/weeks on end.

Ironically, it was successful at taking my mind off all the election bullshit, but I’m never going to be able to keep up with all the UP threads I try and follow. SMH