This week I saw the voting process from the back side when I worked as a roster judge for Ohio’s special August one-issue election. The experience has me more convinced than ever that it is extremely difficult to rig an election. It is virtually impossible to get away with voter fraud with all the checks and balances in place. I encourage anyone who qualifies to work at least one election. See for yourself how the system works, even when the issue up for a vote is highly politicized and polarized.

Learning the Lay of the Land

Before the Board of Elections assigned me a poll worker task, I attended a mandatory election class. We spent a couple of hours reviewing the roster judge portion of a 210-page Training Manual. I also attended a session to practice handling various kinds of challenges we might encounter on Election Day.

On Election Eve a team of about (I never took time to count) fifteen people gathered at our assigned precinct to convert a school gymnasium into a voting site. We unpacked the sealed equipment units delivered earlier that day. They contained the voting machines, signs, tables for checking in voters, another table to deal with special situations, and a designated VLM (Voting Location Manager) office, aka an additional folding table. The VLM brought all the official documents we needed.

My Duties

For poll workers Election Day began at 5:30 a.m. Six roster judges set up their work areas, two per table, each with a poll book containing the names, addresses, voter ID numbers, and signatures that looked like they came off driver’s licenses. Each poll book contained names from a specific part of the alphabet. Once the polls opened we asked each voter to see a photo ID and verified that both what the voter showed us and stated out loud matched the pre-printed poll book. They taught us the handy acronym O.P.E.N: an Ohio driver’s license with a photo, that has not expired, with the name on the license matching the name the voter gave us. I think 195 of the 200 people I checked in Tuesday met that criteria. The few who did not I sent to other people to process.

I then completed an ATV (Authority to Vote) slip of paper, writing in the precise information found in the poll book about where the voter is eligible to vote before I had them sign the poll book. We also had to check off their names in another set of additional pre-printed rosters, which another poll worker posted on a wall so anyone could see who had shown up to vote so far.

Then I gave the voter the authority to vote form and a blank ballot. The voter took these to another worker who collected the authority to vote form and showed the voter how to load the ballot in the voting machine to cast a vote. The last step was to walk over to a poll worker who helped the voter insert the ballot into a secure collection box. Someone monitored the collection boxes, and the voting machines, the entire time the voting site was open. They were never unattended and were located in plain sight of dozens of poll workers. They arrived in sealed containers and were returned that way to the Election Board when the polls closed.

Checks and Balances

At the end of the day, the number of signatures in the poll books had to match the number of authority-to-vote papers, which also had to match the number of ballots in the secure ballot collection box. Multiple people confirmed the numbers several times, all working in an open with other poll workers present.

Different workers cross-checked everyone’s work before the poll books were sealed with red stickers. All the equipment, including voting machines, poll books, authority-to-vote papers, ballots, and incident reports, was stored in locked and sealed containers. Two people, one from each political party, delivered everything back to the Board of Elections.

The VLM asked each of us to identify our party affiliation. I declared Independent, and my table mate declared Republican. Over the course of the day, we became friends. We made plans to play Euchre at our local senior citizens center. Knowing our party affiliations is another checks and balances procedure. When it is necessary to take a ballot outside to a curbside voter, two people, one from each party, handle that task,  preventing either from influencing the voter.

Should any voters’ information not match the poll book, those voters get Provisional Voter Forms. A different team of poll workers deals with the details required to let those voters cast provisional ballots. Poll workers set aside those ballets in what looks like an oversized locked bank bag. Election officials check them later to ensure those people did not vote previously with a mail-in ballot.

Voting is a Privilege and a Responsibility

Voting is the primary tool we citizens have to organize the societies in which we live. That is why those who wish to dominate society, regardless of what the majority of us want, work so hard to control who gets to vote. When the founders of this great country declared we would be a nation with liberty and justice for all, they set it up so that we could choose our own leaders.

Being the mere mortal men they were, they set up the system to guarantee certain inalienable rights for themselves that did not necessarily include their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, or less wealthy men who kept the economy moving along. I suspect they had a condition I consider the “first-born-male syndrome.” It is fairly common for families to bestow large privileges and responsibilities on their first son, presuming he will take care of the rest of his siblings. That being the case, why would sisters and younger brothers want to be involved in the tedious details required to manage a family or a country.

Voting is the Great Equalizer

Ohio’s August special election was a prime example of using the ballot to shape the culture. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the people of Ohio collected enough signatures to get the issue on the November ballot. Next fall the people will decide what they want to do about the issue.

Last December the State Legislature did away with August special elections, declaring them too expensive with too little voter participation. They reversed that decision when it appeared the wave of protesters might succeed in getting the issue before the people. Thus they changed course and called for a special election, held last Tuesday, with one issue. Change the Constitution or keep it the way it’s been for a century.

On the last day of early voting, people waited in the hot August sun for over two hours to vote.  An astonishing 700,000 voters turned out for early voting, far exceeding expectations. On Election Day I personally processed 200 people out of an estimated 3 million voters. The people have spoken, rejecting the proposed amendment to change the rules. From my vantage point, I am confident our votes are safe, handled with great respect, secure, and matter.

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Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold.; Mary Brewster Brewster’s Love Life
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  1. Great post. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your experience. And thank you for signing up to be a poll worker. Since poll workers have become the objects of intimidation, invective, and hatred by those seeking to change the voting results, it takes no small amount of courage to sign up for this civic role. The will of the people of Ohio has now been expressed , thanks to civic-minded citizens such as yourself who make a free and fair system work.

  2. Annette Petrick

    Thanks so much for sharing this insider’s view, Kathy. I wanted to be able to have faith in the systems we believe in. You helped that along..

  3. I think all voting-eligible citizens should spend one day as a poll worker. I have renewed faith in the system and tremendous respect for those who do this often.

  4. Thank you. I am glad I did this. I have new respect for all the behind-the-scenes work it takes to pull off an election.

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