A big part of my non-author life is administering elections. Years ago, it wasn’t such a big part, but as the country has grown divided over politics and as our State legislature in Minnesota changes laws regarding elections, elections seem to have become more of a year-round job rather than just once or twice a year.
Tomorrow is State primary election day in Minnesota and, in my role as Election Official for the city I work for, I have been preparing for this day for months. In fact, due to an unexpected special election back in May, the normal timeframe to prepare was compressed which just makes it more difficult to make sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.
Every election starts the same with recruiting Election Judges. While it has never been an easy task because I just don’t know enough people that owe me a favor, (Ha!) the drama surrounding elections in the last few years has made recruiting Judges even more difficult. It seems no one wants to be under that kind of pressure. Nonetheless, by election day we usually have enough folks wearing the Election Judge lanyard so that regulations are met and the public experiences a well-run election.
Seems simple right? However, there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes for all Election staff. Checking and learning new election laws; finding polling places (hopefully the same ones we always use); working with a vendor to program election media; testing that media to make sure every name is pronounced correctly and every single word on the ballot page is correct, in the right order, and as required under statute; then pre-testing that media to ensure that every single piece of election equipment correctly tabulates the votes before we – with witnesses of different political parties – before we run those same tests all over again in public; printing ballots; posting and publishing notice of candidate filing and then never leaving your office for that two week filing period in case someone comes in to file; posting and publishing notice of public testing and the election itself; preparing for Election Judge training by developing a PowerPoint presentation 200+ slides long and copying 2” stacks of training materials for each and every Judge and practicing that presentation so that everything is correct and to the point; training those dozens of Election Judges in what the State thinks is a two-hour training session but actually lasts three hours to cover all the different components of election law and then having to do it all over again sometimes multiple times when Judges that you need to meet State requirements forget to show up for training; arranging for Judges to do health care voting and then providing each of those who will do so with an extra hour of training; providing an additional hour of training for each Head Judge; putting together great big green supply tubs with every possible thing the Judges may need in their precinct on Election Day; working with our staff to deliver those impossibly heavy supply tubs to the precincts the day before (and not to mention deliver those tubs back to me the day after) the election; making last minute work schedule adjustments when Judges pull out the day before the election; handling calls from the public wondering where they vote, when they vote, what’s on their ballot, and whether or not they are registered; and…..if you work for the County in my area, receiving and processing thousands of absentee ballots by folks who wanted to vote early.
The days leading up to the election get longer and longer as last-minute details must be attended to and on election day, it is a guaranteed minimum 18 hour day and sometimes even more. Sleep in the next day? Not a chance. There are post-election deadlines to meet and things to do and paperwork to complete.
There is of course more that goes on behind the scenes, but my fingers are tired from typing it all and when all that is put on top of my normal work duties that keep me busy for more than 40 hours every week, election season is a drain. I always say it’s like throwing a party for 10,000 people and praying that someone shows up. Because that’s the thing. We never know if anyone is going to show up on Election Day and if they do, how many voters will show up. We plan for thousands and sometimes struggle to attract 500 throughout the City.
Sounds like whining right. I get it. I’m paid to do this job and for the most part, I like it and do it very well. But when 9,500 people don’t show up on election day to vote for their Mayor and Councilmembers and School Board members; when 9,500 people don’t show up to vote for the person who will represent them in Washington, it seems pointless.
Yet, those people who don’t show up to vote are the ones who want to complain about everything. Those people think their taxes are too high or the City is using “their” money frivolously. Those people, the ones who don’t exercise their right to vote, are usually first in line to find fault and that’s not whining. That’s frustration.
The United States of America is a democracy and democracies need citizens to participate in the most basic of rights – the right to vote for those who will represent us. When we don’t take the few minutes it takes to vote on each and every Election Day, we are failing our country and everyone around us. Voting is essential for our way of life to survive. It’s the core principal of democracy and without voters, without those 10,000 people showing up to the party I am throwing on Tuesday, we lose our ability to function as a democracy. The will of the people can’t be a valid premise if “the people” are too busy to participate.
If you live in a jurisdiction that will be holding an election, please get off your couch and vote. Tomorrow may be just a primary and you’ll have another chance in November, but whose name do you want to see on that general ballot in November? And, when November rolls around and the entire nation is voting again, your number one priority on Election Day must be casting your vote for the person your research has shown will best represent all of us and then proudly wearing that “I Voted” sticker.
Then and only then, will all my hard work have been worth it, no matter who wins!
Be well my friends….