Lonely Election Geeks With Clipboards

Genya Coulter

Coulter is an election official and election security advocate in Florida. She is @ElectionBabe on Twitter.

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24 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    I live in Oregon. We have mail-in ballots. Seems to work fine.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Mark says:

      I’m in Colorado, where every registered voter gets a ballot by mail, but for the general elections there are also a small number of voting centers for people with unusual needs (eg, late registration) or who just want to vote the old-fashioned way. In this piece, I was struck by the number of things that are done by software here (for the vast majority of cases): people get the correct ballot*, signatures are checked**, problematic ballots are sorted out, and of course the counting. Voting centers are always in the same places and are comfortable with adequate space, lighting, etc. Everything is audited continuously. One of our neighbors works at the nearest voting center. She says it’s enormously better than back in the days when we had precinct-level voting.

      * Given the number of overlapping special districts, cities, and the county, even local elections may have many different ballots (and then there’s multiple languages). The software is responsible for getting the right ballot into the envelope based on the mailing address.

      ** Based on audits, the software is much better at handling signatures than people are. Not to mention that the machines used by my county process several signed envelopes per second, sorting them into the proper categories.Report

  2. This was a fun read. Nice to see what the other side of the polling place looks like!Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    My wife was a poll worker this past year; I think she had a little more action than you did, but apparently the whole thing went well. Thanks to you (and her) for making the whole thing be a matter of “get paper, sit down, mark, drop, leave” instead of having to stand around while everyone argued over whether we existed!Report

  4. CJColucci says:

    Thank you for your service.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    In my old district in a German part of Pennsylvania, most of the last names started with B, H, or K.Report

  6. I did this a few years ago; a co-worker does it every election (the polling place is in her garage), and recruited somer of us to work with her. It was a great experience, though if I do it again I’m bringing my own comfortable chair.Report

  7. James K says:

    As someone unfamiliar with US elections, why would you have different ballots for different people?Report

    • Genya Coulter in reply to James K says:

      Not everyone coming in to vote has the same political party or district area, especially in a Vote Center model.Report

      • James K in reply to Genya Coulter says:

        The district area I get, but what does political party have to do with it?Report

          • James K in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Those are done at the same time on the same ballot?

            I knew that party elections were government-funded, but I didn’t realise that they were that heavily integrated into the electoral process. I’m guessing that only that the Democrats and Republicans gain this privilege?Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to James K says:

              No, they’re done at the same time on different ballots.

              In my state, major parties (based on share of the vote in the last governor’s election) have primaries on the state’s dime (and schedule). Minor parties can do whatever non-primary thing they want. Some years back we had a disgruntled but well-known Republican run as a third party candidate and get enough votes to make that party a major party for the next four years. They went broke trying to meet all the reporting obligations major parties have to go through.

              We are a vote-by-mail state. If you’re a registered Republican they mail you a Republican ballot; if you’re a Democrat they mail you a Democratic ballot; and if you’re unaffiliated, they send you both ballots but you can only return one. If you go to the vote center, they look up your affiliation and give you that ballot (or whichever you request if you’re unaffiliated).

              I’m sure the Brits find our primary (and convention) system as bizarre as I find the notion that 190,000 Tories and 520,000 Labourites get to make the choice for a nation of 66M people. In my state there are ~4.4M registered voters who can vote in the primary.

              How does New Zealand do it?Report

              • James K in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Every party handles it’s own nominations in its own way. MP nominations are generally decided by the local membership, but the central party leadership tends to have a lot more control than would be normal in the US.

                Party leadership (i.e. the MP who heads the party in Parliament, and in National and Labour’s case either the PM, or the Leader of the Opposition), varies more. The Greens are almost entirely democratic with leadership being held by a postal vote of the membership. By contrast, National’s leadership is purely decided by the causes, so only National MPs have any say over the National leadership. Labour is somewhere in the middle.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to James K says:

      In many states, ballot preparation — handling the entire voting process, actually — is the responsibility of the counties. Where I live, the county includes multiple cities (in whole or part), portions of two US House districts, portions of multiple state legislative districts, and multiple special districts (one for the library, one for certain types of parks and recreation separate from either the cities or the county, water and sewer, etc). My house falls into a subset of all of those distinct entities. I need a ballot that includes all of the contests I’m entitled to vote in, and none of the contests where I’m not entitled. And yes, all the things you’re thinking are true. Eg, our recent mayoral election had ballots printed and counted by two different counties, with partial results from both then sent to the city.

      Even states that still do things with small precincts may not be able to align the boundaries so that everyone in the precinct falls into exactly the same subset of overlapping entities.

      It’s not the case in all states, but in many this type of arrangement grew out of the fact that counties are agents of the state but cities are not.Report

  8. North says:

    Thank you for your service and for writing this Genya. You’re not an election geek to me; you’re a pillar of civilization. God(dess?) bless you.Report

  1. December 30, 2019

    […] gave us a funny and insightful play by play of an election from the poll volunteers’ point of […]Report