Into the Fire
What a Weekend!

The Inside Scoop

Okay.

So I needed a day to breathe.

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Yesterday was . . . hard. I was exhausted. Disappointed. Kinda broken. I entertained various notions throughout the day. Living a quiet life off-the-grid somewhere very remote. Like maybe the Shetland Islands. Never talking to anyone. At all. Ever. Taking a long (and possibly permanent) hiatus from blogging. Going to bed and just staying there.

Which is ultimately what I did: I napped. And after a nap - when I woke to better news from Michigan - I felt a bit brighter. But seeing footage of people with guns trying to crash into absentee ballot counting locations on the east side of the state . . . well, it just about broke me again. Because the people in there counting? They're just like me: official Michigan election inspectors (that's what we call poll workers here) who were assigned to the Absent Ballot Counting Board for this election.

I feel so sad that people have been turned against the very election system itself. Because . . . it's a system that is designed to work! When I went through the training required to become a Michigan election inspector, I came away in awe -- of the Fort-Knox-like system that has been designed around the entire voting experience. Having seen what happens from the inside, I TRUST the system more than ever. And . . . I trust that the system will hold up against any challenges.

Here in Michigan (and I know this will be the case in each state), there are voting safeguards in place to MAKE SURE each person can ONLY vote once. To MAKE SURE that ONLY people registered in a given precinct can vote in that precinct. To MAKE SURE absent ballots are tabulated accurately. To MAKE SURE there is balanced party representation in each polling place and in the Absent Ballot Counting Board -- and to MAKE SURE that an election official representative from each party is present at EVERY step of the process. It's all balanced. It's as close to non-partisan as you can get! Before beginning our duties we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan. We are sequestered. We sign our names over and over and over again on documents and results and checklists. There are seals and locks and safeguards. It is an amazing system. Trust it.

And . . . I saw it work on Tuesday! Not because people were trying to "cheat" -- because I don't believe they were doing that in any way -- but because voters were in the wrong precinct, or had received an absentee ballot but never submitted it, or filled in too many bubbles on their ballot (we still use paper ballots in Michigan, although we have tabulators in each precinct for the counting). And there are protocols in place for EVERY situation!

And at the end of the night when the polls close, election inspectors don't just pack up and go home. Not until EVERY ballot is accounted for (voted and unvoted) with reports (many reports) that require balancing and totals and signatures. Not until every piece of voting equipment or report or piece of paper is packed securely away - and under lock and seal - to be delivered to the clerk's office by a team consisting of representatives from both political parties. . . together. Not until the entire precinct is packed up again and cleared.

It's a big job.
(Fort Knox, I'm telling you.)

And it's the same way in the Absent Ballot Counting Board. On Monday, I worked all day to help process absentee ballots for my city. Here in Michigan, we were not able to begin processing the absentee ballots until the day before the election. ("Processing" means . . . opening the envelopes and assuring that the ballot numbers inside match the assigned ballot number on the envelopes.) By getting a one-day head start on the processing, the Absent Ballot Counting Board could then begin tabulating ballots right away on election day -- without also needing to process them. My city, alone, received approximately 20,000 absentee ballots! That's a whole lot of opening envelopes. (So when you wonder why it takes so long to get the results? That's why.)

Anyway. My work on Monday also began with the oath, and I was sequestered. We worked in teams of two -- and, as you can probably guess, each team comprised one Democrat and one Republican. We had to do everything together - including bathroom breaks! It is very official and very bi-partisan . . . and VERY congenial. Because when it comes down to it, all election inspectors want the same thing: a fair election process where every legitimate voter CAN VOTE safely and securely.

I wish more people in this country understood how the system works -- and how hard the people working behind the scenes are committed to and CARE about fairness and security and transparency!

Trust the system.
And be patient.

==

I also wanted to mention that I worked in a primarily "red" precinct on Tuesday. It turned out to be far less busy than we expected, and especially later in the day. (This is because we had so many absentee ballots submitted in Michigan.) (I could have knit, in fact, but I didn't have my knitting. . . ) Still, we had a big morning crush and a steady stream of voters for most of the day. I am happy to report a very civil day -- everyone (voters and workers alike) were kind, considerate, and patient. There was one kind of grumpy man (he was in the wrong precinct), but even he was mollified quickly. We had good questions from first-time and not-in-a-long-time voters. It was an excellent experience - no intimidation, no rudeness, no disruptions. And most everyone wore masks (although there were a LOT of under-the-nose mask wearers. . . ). I felt safe and supported all day.

 

 

Comments

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Bonny

Thank you for your work as an election inspector! I've watched interviews with Secretaries of State and Commissioners of Elections, and they have all said the same thing: counting votes is our job that we take very seriously and please let us do it. I felt better after hearing their calming voices saying "the system is working", and I feel even better after reading your insider's view. It may be a while before we have results (especially with legal challenges) but the people have spoken. Let's wait patiently to hear what they have said.

Patty

This brought tears to my eyes. Thank-you for the work you did and I can't wait until I am able to do the same for my community. Every vote counts! xo

Marie

It's very comforting to know that the system works. Thanks for your contribution to your community and our country.

Carole

I'm sorry it took such a toll on you but I truly appreciate that you were a part of this process. Thank you.

Chloe

Everything I experienced while voting in my state confirms what you have just described. Kym. I felt very reassured even before I actually got into the polling room. There was a peaceful, relaxed but quite efficient 30-minute wait in line outside prior to that. Back in 1990 when I was an election official, virtually none of what you had to do this year was necessary. It was an off-year election and we were told to bring a book as it would be very quiet. I brought a book and my knitting and another hobby and was able to dip my toe in all of them. It did turn out busier than expected (perhaps a sign of things to come) but still casual and trusting. We did require I.D. from voters which is no longer required. Perhaps that is why there is worry about voter fraud? But you are telling us there are systems now in place to prevent this. Glad to hear it! It might not always have been the case. Every year things seem to get better. So between my own experience and all that you have just recounted I feel good about America. Most of us want stability, honesty & a strong, healthy democracy. Thank you for all you have done!

Vera

Thank you Kym!

Kim

Thank you for this post. It was very informative--I have read similar reports on Twitter of people who worked in the polls. I don't think 45 has a leg to stand on but of course if there is a good reason to have a recount then by all means recount.

I'm feeling a bit better today but will probably still be holding my breath until January.

Sarah

I am so grateful for people like you for doing this work -- it is SO important, but sadly I think there are too many people out there who are so quick to believe that it's easy to commit voter fraud and that there aren't policies and procedures in place to protect against it. And I am absolutely horrified about the people showing up with guns where votes are being counted. There are third-world countries where those kind of things happen!

I hope that after this election, it's clear to many more people that we need to seriously rethink how we do elections in this country and make changes to make it easier for people to vote and easier to count those votes.

Carolyn

Thank you--for your commitment to the process and to sharing it here. This post chokes me up... It makes me proud of our citizens, and of our nation, after some years now of no flags on our porch, an agitation about the Pledge, a whole lot of things I know deserve honor--AND. I've let it all be swept up by, well, A Louse in the White House. (Children's book there??) There's some work to be done in my heart, I know. I have, indeed, let him get the best of me. What I realized as I watched Colorado stand for Good and stand for All is that I could have spent the last 4 years focusing less on the louse and more on my own state's affairs, which ebbed & flowed for me. (Note to self.) And I hope you're feeling restored, to some degree. xo

Mary

Thank you for your important work on the election. I’m glad you rested yesterday. Things are still crazy ... and I’m tired, and some moments, a little hopeful.

Geri

This post shows how “ we the people “step up to make our democracy work. Thank you for telling us about your experience and the commitment all poll workers make to ensure citizens have their vote count. Glad you were able to rest today. Praying for an outcome that will end this 4 year nightmare!

Helen Mathey-Horn

Thank you for working the polls! Especially in this tense time. My parents worked the polls in my hometown for several years. I know they were dedicated to making it work for everyone regardless of party affiliation.
I had to proctor an ACT test one time, and I was a nervous basket case trying to make sure I followed all the protocols and didn't screw anything up as it was some kid's (several kids') college future potentially at stake. I know how I felt. I can only imagine doing that for more hours with more people.
Again thank you.

Pam

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I challenged an acquaintance on Facebook who was complaining about how "it could be manipulated." Of course she had no basis for her claims except the malarkey being spread about this election. I'm grateful for the people who work so carefully and long to make elections possible.

Judy

Thank you for being a part of this process and thank you more for writing this post. I think EVERYONE should read it. You have done a wonderful job of explaining both the process and the non partisan way it is handled. For democracy to work, we must believe in the process that keeps it in place. We all need to take a breath.
I have decided to return to blogging as a way to keep in touch through another pandemic winter. It would be too easy to hide under a blanket.
Thanks again.

Denise

You hit the nail on the head. It’s been such an emotional roller coaster these days. Seemingly never ending.
Taking a breather can be very restorative, I’m learning.
Thank you for working the polls and for sharing your description of the process with us. It sounds so orderly and well implemented.

Anne

Thank you Kym.
Be well.

eileen

This is such good news! Thank you for telling us about Michigan! And, thank you for being a poll working, a decision that I'm sure was not made lightly.

Kat

The process is very similar here in PA. Training, oaths, and the desire to help people vote! And the Pre-vote work and post-vote work is so precise and so consistent and so time consuming!! PA went to paper ballots scanned in this year and as with all thing, change is hard. I have worked the polls for a good number of years and this year was very different. While there were a good number of well-mannered people, so many were not. So many had political attire on (against PA State law), so many were vocal about their suspicions (none of which were founded in any sense of reality), I worked in a place where 2 precincts vote and heard the "n" word several times during the day. I am ashamed of my neighbors...truly. And, I am with you... I am so ready to move some place with NONE of this nonsense. Here is to a weekend of rest and refilling ourselves! XO

kathy b

Thank you so so much for volunteering. I trust the process and I appreciate all those who work the election. I am overjoyed with our news Today.

sustainablemum

Thank you for sharing this. I knew little about the voting system in your country before this year. The work you are doing and have done is vital for the democracy of your country and I am so glad to hear you defending the work you do whilst at the same time sad that it is necessary for you to have to do that. I am glad to hear that everyone who came to your polling station was polite and courteous that must have made your work so much easier.

Vicki

Ahhh. Thank you, Kym!!! It was a rollercoaster, nail-biter for a couple of days! I was not surprised by the people with guns... they were following their "leader," who, despite being our now-fired President, seems to have absolutely no idea how it all works.

I sure was hoping for a Big Blue Wave...

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