Thursday, November 5, 2020

My Experience as a Poll Watcher in a Philly Suburb. Joyous, Quintessentially American

My wife and I had the honor and pleasure on Election Day as serving as poll watchers at our local precinct (Edgmont Township, 1st Precinct, Delaware County, PA). I’m happy to share our experience. 

We took the last shift, 5-8 p.m., and stayed around to watch the process after the polls closed.

We obtained our poll watcher certificates from one of our local Township supervisors and presented them to the judge of elections. She showed us where to sit - right next to her and 2 other election officials who were processing voters, behind plexiglass shields. It was busy, as it had been all day - waits were up to 2.5 hours early in the a.m. It slowed down by 6 p.m., with over 850 people voting in person - very high. And that doesn’t include the early and mail-in or drop-box voters (like me). 

It was a wonderful, community experience. We caught up with neighbors. Nearly everyone voluntarily offered their drivers’ licenses for ID. Everyone wore masks. Everyone was respectful, obedient, and seemed genuinely happy to be there. No agitation, no anger.

No Sharpies were available - only black pens, as prescribed by state election procedures. Paper ballots. Polls workers patiently and carefully explaining the procedures, including specifically how to fill in the boxes for those candidates they supported.. Those who either weren’t on the rolls or were recorded as having requested a mail ballot were immediately offered a provisional ballot. All took them - about 40 in all. 

After casting their ballots, every voter walked to one of 2 machines (with a third available) to run their ballots through a scanner. When the scanner rejected it, a poll worker explained why. Often, it was because they failed, or refused, to cast a ballot for one of the offices. They were offered the chance to vote, or to allow the poll worker to override the machine and count the rest of their ballot. In every case I saw, the voter chose to complete their ballot.

There was one instance where someone unintentionally spoiled their ballot. They were immediately offered a new one. Some brought in their mail ballots, mostly unopened. they were asked to open them to remove the ballots to be disqualified, so they could cast a vote in person, following the law precisely. 

Everyone was civil, friendly, and genuinely happy to be there. People enjoyed the process. Everyone was happy.

When things ended, we watched the elaborate, detailed, and frankly complicated process of packaging all the ballots. Republicans carried my precinct, on Election Day, by a better than 3:1 margin, uniformly, from President to State Representative. I knew right there that this was a truly nationalized election, and that Republicans largely showed up in person.

This is the way I have always experienced and envisioned elections. Voting on one day, in person, next to neighbors and friends. Election Day is special. I immediately regretted my early and previous votes by mail (I often had no choice, due to travel and work). 

This is why I hate vote by mail, the potential for fraud aside. It is a genuine community event, people coming together to cast ballots. No one judging each other. An obvious Biden-Harris supporter (she illegally wore a button into the voting area) dropped by to ask a procedural question. I was happy to answer it. She left, after thanking me. America as it should be.

I have no idea what the politics of our election judge was, nor our poll workers. I don’t care. They followed the rules scrupulously. They gave me faith in the process. I know our township handled this well, and trust the results. For a short while, my faith in America was restored. The process, at least here, worked. Open, transparent, and trustworthy.

Seems to me that parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, and certainly Philadelphia have a lot to learn from my township.

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