A Day in the Life of an Election Day Worker: Before and After
By: Lindsay Straub
Monday night, the final night before the 2008 Presidential Election, Marist senior Maggie Green made sure she packed enough snacks to give her fuel for the following day. There was a variety of foods: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sweet and salty trail mix, a turkey and cheese sandwich, chewy granola bars and chewing gum, of course.
Where was Green going with enough to last her from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.? On Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, Green will work as a “poll inspector” for Election Day.
“I’m very anxious for tomorrow,” Green said. “This is the first time I’ve had strong feelings about an election and my candidate of choice.”
Green will work in Dutchess County at the East End Firehouse in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., and monitor a new voting system known as a Ballot Marking Device.
A BMD is a computer-based voting system that produces a marked ballot, usually on paper. It is accessible to those with disabilities as it offers audio and visual aids and allows disabled voters to mark the paper ballots by using foot paddles or blowing into a tube, among other means. In addition, it grants them the option to vote at a polling center as opposed to using an absentee ballot-a common voting method among disabled individuals.
There was a strong movement by the disabled community for an equal opportunity to vote at an on-site polling location. Dutchess County therefore incorporated these machines, which are mostly monitored by younger workers who may be more technologically advanced, into its polling centers. These machines will become the new voting system in New York as level machines can no longer be used after this year.
Green said the machines, however, are unreliable right now and that a number of things could go wrong especially because this is the first time they will be used.
“Using the BMD will take about 20 minutes, whereas normal voting usually takes about three,” Green said. “Because the system is computerized there could be a few glitches with internal software or with printing paper, for example.”
Green went through two training sessions to prepare for Election Day: one to become familiar with the BMD and another to become familiar with the conventional voting system.
“We anticipate large crowds in Dutchess County,” Green said. “I know I have a long day ahead of me, but I know it will be worth it to feel as though I’ve done something to contribute to a fair and honest race.”
After a 15-hour day at the East End Firehouse, Green returned to Marist to await the outcome of the 2008 Presidential Race.
About 600 people went to Green’s polling center to cast their votes. When the final count was given to the Dutchess County Board of Elections Tuesday night, Green said the numbers were almost split between the candidates.
Of all the voters who came out, only one was there to use the BMD.
Green said that although she realizes she worked at a pretty quiet polling center, she would have liked to see more people take advantage of the BMD if possible.
Later Tuesday night, America was addressed by its new president, Barack Obama. Winning by a landslide, Obama made a historical victory, not only because of the color of his skin, but also because he raised more money than any other presidential candiate.
Listening to Obama’s speech, Green alluded to a phrase she has used throughout this campaign: “Go Bama, go Bama, go Bama, go!”