Given the circus that has been this year’s election process, I thought it would be interesting to learn the flip side of the voting process, so I signed up for Election Officer training. Note, I am not typically into politics and this post is not about the candidates.
I initially signed up to be an Election Officer for two reasons – curiosity, and because the payment fee will help cover my Personal Property Tax, which is $$$ in Fairfax County. The training lasted three hours and included one 10-minute break. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first; I assumed it was going to be tedious. Much to my surprise, it was a very interesting experience!
Highlights of what I learned during my training:
- Upon arriving for work on Election Day (SUPER EARLY before the polls officially open), I must take an election oath.
- Election Officer shifts are approximately 16 hours. (One of the trainers told us to think of it as “a one-day camping trip with no amenities.” Once we enter the voting precinct and take the oath, we cannot leave until our shift is over. He strongly suggested that we bring enough food and drink with us to last.)
- Election Officers will not necessarily have time to vote on Election Day; they recommended that we exercise our voting right in advance via absentee ballot.
- Election Officers have important roles as the “face of the election; the first ones voters see when they enter the precinct.”
- The County expects large voter turnouts in Fairfax; 85% at each precinct.
- There were 714,113 registered voters in Fairfax County as of the day of my Election Officer training, and there are 1,313 polling locations in Fairfax County to serve the voters.
- Poll Pads aka iPads (see pic) are being used for the first time to check in voters. They sync within 30 feet of each other throughout the day. (The modernization of incorporating technology in the process excites me.)
- A typical ballot box used for voting is the DS200. No equipment ever gets plugged directly into a wall; everything must be plugged into a power strip. There are also voting machines available for people with accessibility needs. (We learned the ins and outs of how all the ballot machines work and dealing with various ballot submission scenarios, like someone marking more than one candidate in a category on their ballot and the machine rejecting it.)
- Election Officers cannot look at voter’s ballots or provide advice (please be mindful and keep your ballot choices to yourself). If someone shows us their ballot, we must offer to be their Assistant and if they say yes, we must sign an Assistance Form.
- Voters can submit blank ballots; this is usually NOT done by mistake, but rather purposely as a form of silent protest.
- Every single discarded item is accounted for; we are not allowed to throw anything in the garbage, from a voided or spoiled ballot to a used zip tie.
The presidential election, scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be the 58th US presidential election. The election will determine the 45th President and 48th Vice President of the United States. I am hopeful that my country will survive whatever the outcome!