Tag Archives: early voting

Talleying Votes

Partial early voting line at Talley NCSU on a nice autumn day

For the past week or so, I’ve been serving on the “early shift” as a non-partisan election official at the polls at Talley Student Center at NC State University. We’re just over halfway through North Carolina’s 17 days of early voting. Turnout has been a lot heavier than in previous election cycles, even during this covid-19 pandemic. Overall unofficial voting statistics are posted online each evening after the polls closed, and I’ve followed the burgeoning numbers with interest (http://www.wakegov.com/elections/Pages/default.aspx).

In our mostly urban county, about 1/3 of currently registered voters have already cast ballots in person. Because of continued litigation and voter uncertainty, it’s not totally clear how many absentee ballots have been cast, but our early site each day gets a trickle of personally delivered absentee forms from area voters unsure of the speed or reliability of postal mail return.  

The campus is emptier of students than it would be in a non-covid year, but most days so far have featured warm, sunny autumn weather that allows for socially distanced outdoor studying, playing, dining, and waiting in voting lines. We get a fair number of voters who sport NCSU themed masks, shirts or t-shirts. On the second day of voting, it rained until mid-afternoon, but voters waited with umbrellas anyway, and our overall voter total surpassed opening day.  

The pandemic has changed some of the logistics of early voting. Our site benefited indirectly from pandemic changes on the campus—we have a much bigger, airier enclosure for this year’s voting process, with 64 socially distanced stations for filling out ballots. All staff members are required to wear protective face masks, with face shields and protective gloves recommended. Each worker’s station has a protective plastic barrier in front of it. Hand sanitizer and cleaning solutions are abundant and frequently used. Extra masks and gloves are available for voters who want them but do not have their own. Voters may opt to vote without masks if they choose, but few so far have made that choice.

The basic voting process remains the same: voters first check in with an application table official to make sure their voting record is current. If all checks out, they take a printed “application to vote” form to a ballot station where they exchange the ATV for one of the many ballot styles for different addresses in our county. Each voter hand-feeds his/her completed ballot into a voting tabulator, with the option of getting an “I voted early” sticker to go with the individual “covid-19 souvenir” pen he/she was given at the voting enclosure entrance. One continuing feature of early voting in North Carolina is “same day registration”—new or new-to-county voters may present appropriate identification to register and vote on the same day. 

Voting rules preclude me from taking notes about individual voters, but a few of the voters I’ve processed have been memorable beyond note taking. One older man came in the first or second day, carrying two large tote bags and rolling a suitcase. His skin was roughened, his clothes somewhat worn. His registration information was in the voter database; I couldn’t tell whether his address indicated a homeless shelter. 

Partly because our building is near the campus athletic complex, we get a fair number of sports players and coaches of both genders and multiple ethnicities. My favorite so far has been a recently-turned-18 basketball player fresh from practice who appeared with several shorter teammates. His head was well above the top of my plastic barrier. He was careful to maintain social distance while he gave me his name and address. Someone else with exactly the same name, but a different address and earlier birth date, lived in our county. 

“Are you by any chance a ‘junior’”? I asked. 

“Yes!” he answered. “Would it be hard to add that to my record?” 

“No problem.”  I always enjoy making the name and address changes that can be done during early voting with minimal hassle.

After I’d made the change and printed out his name change and ATV forms, I noticed an older, less tall gentleman in the background who might have been either a coach or the “senior.”  Reassured that his player or son would get to vote unimpeded, the older man left.

What We Pay Attention To Matters

What We Pay Attention To Matters     —by Jinny Batterson

Here in North Carolina, we have the option of voting early—this election cycle, nearly three weeks early.  On the very first day of the eighteen days set aside for early voting in the county where I live, I cast my ballot.  I’d earlier signed up to work as a non-partisan election official at one of the early voting sites in our county.  Mostly because of this temporary job (and because I need to spend at least some of my time sleeping), I’ve been sheltered from widespread exposure to news events and negative campaign advertising. This has proved to be a real blessing. 

Once I finish my early shift at about 2 in the afternoon, I come home, take a nap, take a walk, share an evening meal with my husband, then bed down early so I can repeat the cycle, starting at about 4:30 a.m. the following day.  I’ve been vaguely aware of hateful tweets and sporadic violence, but mostly I’ve spent my after-dark hours sleeping and my before-dark hours either working or enjoying the autumn weather outdoors. 

On the job, we’re forbidden to talk politics, a wise decision, I believe. Still, from some of the partial stories other workers have shared with me, I get the impression that we represent a pretty wide range of backgrounds and political persuasions. We have younger workers, some coping with student debt, others concerned about underemployment—mismatches between the skills they’ve trained for and the jobs they’ve found so far. We have middle aged workers who worry about aging parents and/or the fluctuations in their 401Ks in a volatile stock market.

The long and short of voting at a central NC early voting site

We come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, from a petite ballot handler to a former basketball center. Some older “temps” are retirees like me; others still work part-time, sandwiching in scant time for personal lives amid hectic work schedules. One of my 60ish coworkers has a vocabulary that suggests he may not have had the same chances for formal education that I did. His line of patter can sometimes border on bigotry, yet he spent some of his off-hours last week comforting a colleague whose wife had a terminal illness. 

Our range of voters also is wide—from the just-turned-18 to a frail elderly woman whose grandson wheeled her up the elevator and into the voting area to cast her ballot one more time. She was born in 1920, the year that women in the U.S. first obtained the right to vote in national elections.  We see office workers on their lunch hours, professors eager to encourage their students to vote, students puzzled about voting procedures, custodians, construction workers, and others whose dress and demeanor defy easy labeling. 

It would be unrealistic to believe that our democracy is in great shape. Being subjected to predictably inflammatory tweets, predictably bloody lead news stories, and predictably negative campaign advertising can be discouraging. Whatever the outcome of this current voting cycle, we will have lots of work to do to help heal some of the breaches in our social fabric, whether we are citizens or elected officials. Yet I’m encouraged by the civility of the voters and polling officials in the small corner of the electorate where I work. Many people DO show up to vote, over a million so far in North Carolina. They wait in line, sometimes chatting with each other. They’re glad to get their ballots and to make their opinions known.  Perhaps if we pay more attention to what’s going well, we may be in a better position to help alleviate what’s not.