Stories from the polls around the country
Debilyn Molineaux, co-publisher of The Fulcrum, volunteered as a poll worker last week for the first time. Inspired by what she experienced in Maryland, she reached out via Facebook to others who volunteered across the country, asking them, “Were you a poll worker? What happened in your precinct?” Here, she shares her thoughts, and the words of other poll workers who made the 2022 midterms run so smoothly.
Comments have been edited for clarity.
I worked at a voting center in Pima County. Voting centers allow registered voters to cast their ballot at any location rather than a precinct. Individualized ballots are printed on demand. I served as a Judge of the Same Party as the center's Inspector. We processed 300 ballots without incident. This was the first time voting centers were used in a general election. This was my first time as a poll worker, and I look forward to serving again in the future.
I volunteered as a poll watcher for my party. Poll workers are paid by the state, a job I did many years ago. A poll watcher is not paid, simply observes the activity in the location, either for one of the parties or for a candidate. Does not interact with voters, does not handle supplies or equipment. They don't have to be there the entire time. (I have a senior doggie that needs medication and tending to, so the flexibility is better for me.) At the end of the night, the number of ballots questioned, spoiled. etc., and results from the tape are collected and provided to the party. As for during the time I was there (about 4-5 hours total), there was a regular stream of one, two or three voters pretty much the entire time. Once, all six voting booths were occupied, plus one voter who opted to sit down at a table to fill out the ballot. There were no disruptions or problems. A newspaper reporter stopped by for a little bit too.
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Four-day vote center in Northern California in a largely Vietnamese community. Citizenship class going on next door. Pleasant, courteous, older voters proudly exercising their right to vote in free and fair elections. It was heartwarming and encouraging.
As a poll worker in our tiny precinct I also had a very positive experience that reinforced my belief in the integrity of our system.
Everyone was super happy to be doing democracy. Super cute little kids putting ballots into the big red box and feeling like they helped. I love voting.
Yes I did for the first time. Very long day but it went smoothly. No glitches, just some people in the wrong polling location and people who did not register in time to meet the Delaware cutoff. Turnout was over 30 percent for an election that really had no drama or close counts. Polling boxes and voting booths were very high-tech and it seemed to me impervious to fraud. Poll workers seemed divided between Democrats and Republicans although hard to be sure. No challengers around, just a few MaGA fellows with flags in the parking lot who must have been cold but bothered no one. Most of the election officials had worked the polls for many years and knew each other. The inspector was quite young and really knew her stuff. The rest of us were pretty geriatric., but in our beach town so are residents. Workers helped each other and except for it being an incredibly long day it was fun and educational. Because we are a beach town with a small year-round population, we had no real lines. We helped almost 1,000 people vote and most said, “Thank you for enabling us to participate.” It almost seemed like it was as important to demonstrate a civic commitment to vote as to select a candidate.
Yes and it was busy but all went smoothly.
I worked as a poll worker for about 10 years. The vast majority of voters were very polite and agreeable. People who think there's a conspiracy about “stolen” elections have probably never been a poll worker. That being said, we do need to move the voting process forward and take advantage of technology.
Maryland (this is Molineaux’s story)
I worked the polls in Maryland for the first time. I am thrilled to know that the people I worked with, everyday Americans from all walks of life, stepped up to do what needed to be done in every moment. They felt personally responsible for ensuring the integrity of the election. It was a grueling 15-hour day. I am sore, I am tired. I am proud. My spirit is lifted by the in-person exchanges, by the many first-time voters and same-day registrants. The people were determined to vote. At one point, our lines were likely 60-90 minutes. I never saw anyone leave. Glad I voted absentee!
I was an election worker – first time — and was encouraged by the dedication and commitment of my fellow workers. It was a long, busy day but well worth it to see how carefully everyone did their assigned job. The voters were pleasant and often expressed their thanks. I think we all want a return to community and civility.
I was a poll worker for early/absentee voting for a week and a half prior to Election Day. On Election Day, I was a poll worker from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Poll hours in Minnesota are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
I was. It was fairly calm. Had a few address changes and provisional ballots to deal with, but everyone was easy to work with. Seventy-five percent or so voted absentee here.
I've worked the polls three times. Each time, the mood of the voters was happy. People love to vote, love our country and cherish democracy. It shows when they come in and in the things they say. Fellow poll workers are also very upbeat, as a rule, even though it's a long and sometimes grueling day. It takes me days to recover, and I'm not sure I'll be able to do it in 2024. That will be a very exciting day at the polls.
This election marks my 30th year as a poll worker in the two states I've lived in. I worked Election Day as well as many shifts of early voting this year. We were pretty busy all day (1,200+ voters on Tuesday, 500+ voters on the last day of early voting), but I live in a county where the turnout is 50 percent to 60 percent of registered voters, even in a midterm election. Our ballot control numbers came out perfectly.
I had a very similar experience as a first-time poll worker in Ohio. The people I worked with, none of them known to me before our Monday night set up, worked together like a well-oiled machine. Great teamwork, which was so helpful to me in my first experience as a poll worker. Security precautions were extensive and everyone took it very seriously. The wait for voters was sometimes up to an hour in line, but the vast majority of people remained patient, even those who had young children or babies with them. Chairs were quickly offered to those who needed them while they waited. Many voters thanked us for working the long Election Day. We arrived at 5:30 a.m. and didn't leave until 8:45 p.m. ( with a one-hour lunch break). I was tired at the end of the night, but delighted to have participated in the process that makes our elections free and fair.
I decided when I retired I would start volunteering. This was my first opportunity. I was nervous because it was a new experience, especially since I'd been working from home for about four years. Not difficult work but biggly responsibility. A younger poll worker told me she volunteered because she's interested in politics for herself. Never know where our next leaders will come from. I rotated roles, sometimes on "the books," greeting, manning the ballot scanner or running supplies. Our ballot was very short, only four offices, so very few long lines except opening. Voters were in line an hour before the polls opened! Three of the four offices were/are under national scrutiny: governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. representative. My personal votes didn't "hit" the trifecta, but I accept the results. I believe I heard our location turnout was about the same as 2020. All in all a satisfying day.
I’ve worked elections since 2005. This election our two large counties had more address changes, people voting in a precinct where they were not registered or were inactive since they had not voted in several elections. It was most young voters’ first or second time, which is good. Turnout, even with early voting, was higher than anticipated.
Our county has had various sites drop out because of electrical needs for machines, access for all voters. We need more poll managers and clerks if we want to service all voters. Retired people can only do this for a few years.
The poll workers had to stop signing us in because the lines of voters coming in and the lines waiting to get to the voting booths of people already checked in were getting jammed together. In the time waiting, they had sent several people to their new voting place that weren’t aware of the changes.
Our state had an unexpectedly high number of voters. We were figuring it out as we went because we had never had a line before or anything like the number of people who showed up. Just saying, maybe this was a fluke? You can contact your city clerk for complaints/comments. She's in charge of the polls.
I am an election worker at my township polling place in Wisconsin, I worked from 7-1:30, and there was always a line. It was as busy as a presidential election. I believe we had a record turnout, over 80% of registered voters voted in my township.
I am also a poll worker and can report that our day went smoothly, too. I do think that your area is expecting too much with 15 hour days! We split it into two shifts. Much less exhausting.
Location not known
I was a poll worker. My experience was very similar to yours. Most everyone was pleasant and patient. Lots of young people and same day registration. I’ve worked a few years now and it was by far busier than I’ve ever seen before.
I had the same basic experience. Lots of people came to vote and election workers did everything to make it easy and possible to cast a vote.
It was my first time to work the polls and I was very impressed and so thankful to be part of a group that was so professional and generous.
It was so important to me to do something and I am so glad I did. It truly felt like democracy in action.
We were swamped all day. Yet pretty much everyone was pleasant and patient.
I worked the early/absentee voting desk for six weeks during the 2020 election and Covid pandemic. And again for three weeks during the recent midterms. The vast majority of voters were kind, patient and thankful. A select few pelted the team with questions about voter fraud. And many who received automatic mail ballots (because their township boards made that determination for them) were either confused or frustrated by that process. However I never felt threatened at any point. I intend to do this again
Worked at the polls. Uplifting each time there was a first-time voter. A lot of young determined voters. Fifteen and a half hours is a long day but well worth it.
Ditto busy but uneventful in my precinct, 980 voters which was heavy for a midterm. Jealous of the split shift idea; for 15 hours it would be nice if the county would cater lunch since we can’t leave the building.
We had maybe two- or three-minute-long lines and it got really busy at times. There were a lot of new voters also. Our machine jammed right at the end. I've heard it may be due to long ballots but that's no excuse to me. It caused doubt to the last few voters. We did fix it and ran their ballots through.
I was an inside poll watcher and the workers were considerate and problem solvers. It was a good experience.