Adam Ehlert shares his experience as a Poll Worker in the August 4th Primary
Prepositions at the Polls
With significant apologies to Honest Abe, I had three prepositions running though my brain all day: of, by and for. “…That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I had volunteered to be a Primary Day poll worker. I’m not sure if I would fit into any of those prepositions that are so apt. But I kept trying to figure out the proper placement for each player as I slogged through the 14-hour day.
The for is pretty easy. We The People are our own self-governed subjects. We are in control of our government, and per our Constitution, have the ability to protect ourselves from tyranny.
The of is well down a slippery slope. Our supposed citizen-legislature has turned into a professional ruling (pardon me—elected!) class. If you’re one providing our governance, you’re in pretty good shape.
I guess that makes my election-day cog a by (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I am grateful that we are afforded the opportunity to dig in, to touch, to feel, and stick our arms in the sausage casings. But at times it was almost that gross.
In the small, suburban/rural-ish precinct that I and my four fellow co-workers worked, we processed just under 400 Primary voters. Each and every citizen was allowed to exercise that right, and I am very proud to say that Johnson County, Kansas runs an election like a well-oiled machine (pun not intended). The Election Office’s mantra is that “poll workers are: Professional, Orderly and Organized, and Courteous.”
We had precious few surprises, and ever fewer problems. The biggest was when, after fully being set up for the 7:00 opening bell, the voting machines had gone back to sleep. Literally. We began processing paper ballots for the dozen at the door, while our Supervising Official was on the phone with HQ. Yes—they had gone back to sleep. We had to use a flashlight (appropriately provided in all the supplies and manuals), to shine into the machines’ scanners, thereby bringing them back to function. The smelling salts were apparently sent to another precinct…. In The Office’s defense, I think this was brought on by over-preparation. We set up starting at 5:30—owing to anticipated large turnout—and that was 30 minutes earlier than usual. The machines grew weary of their dormancy.
We were prepared, and the system worked. Especially in the Age of Covid. The process was touchless (if of course none of the workers took short cuts, and of course if all the voters followed all instructions).
There was some skepticism. Two voters separately justified their request for a paper ballot. There is no need to explain the logic, but one offered that he “wanted to make sure there was a paper trail.” The other went out of his way to ensure we did not have an electronic paper trail as he winked his way to the secret carrels.
More than a few voters cawed at the government-provided and virus-free pen/stylus, which was to ensure a touchless process. Several closely inspected the swag for a “Made In _ _ _ _ _” sticker.” “We already paid for it anyway, huh?”
As we packed up equipment and reconciled reports, I remained thankful for our free and open process.
And now a day after, I’m also glad for Will Rogers’ aphorism to “Be thankful that we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”
…that’s 30 for today.