Vignettes of 2016 Voting in Central NC, Part 2

Vignettes of 2016 Voting in Central North Carolina, Second Installment                                  —by Jinny Batterson

By now, the early voting period for this fall’s election is more than half over where I live. For the first few days this week, I worked at a high-volume site, one of nine opened for a full period of early voting in our county. Midweek, I had part of a day off, then resumed work at a smaller, later-opening station.

So far, my favorite task has been greeting potential voters at the front door. We’ve had beautiful weather. Standing at a sunny entrance bragging just a bit about our previous days’ vote totals is enjoyable. I also get to explain in a low-key way some ground rules for indoor behavior—cell phones on mute or vibrate, no electronic communications in the voting booth, no photo ID required unless needed to verify name and address of a first-time voter. Because voting rules have changed several times since the previous presidential election, the introduction serves to minimize potential problems. For me, what has been most enjoyable of all is a chance to see the variety of voters and to interact with some just a bit. 

At both sites, our workload has been steady enough so that there’s little time for chitchat. Staff and voters are careful to avoid partisanship inside the voting enclosure. I’m not sure what proportion of the voting population at either polling station belongs to which political party. I’m pretty sure there have been at least a few Libertarian voters.  One independent-minded gentleman volunteered the information that he’d written in his mother for president. We’ve processed at least one voter who wore a burka, a few who were blind and brought seeing relatives to assist them, more with mobility problems who needed to vote without leaving their parked cars. A few retirement centers have sent their activity busses. Because each poll worker can process just one voter at a time, a twelve-seater bus can take quite a while to clear.

Once the official closing time for each day’s polling has passed, the voting enclosure gets quieter. As the last few voters complete their ballots, it becomes almost totally still. As soon as the final vote has been tabulated and the final voter exits, a flurry of activity erupts—reconciling the ballot totals for the day, cleaning out voting booths, tidying work areas, preparing supplies for the succeeding day’s balloting.     

This coming week will be the final week of early voting. Then a two-day respite before a very long election day on November 8.  About 22% of the eligible voters in our county have taken advantage of early voting so far, enough to relieve some of the pressure when election day finally arrives.

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