Experience: Arlington County Election Volunteer Concierge
Yesterday I used my volunteer hours to work the polls in Arlington County for the midterm elections. I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. I always exercise my right to vote but by being the feet on the street I felt like I was directly participating in our democracy.
As an Election Concierge I wore many hats and did my best to help the community in their efforts to vote. After training on Saturday at the Courthouse learning the do’s and don’ts of working the polls along with some basic election law I was ready to start. I arrived mid-morning and relieved the 5am crew. I had a fancy oversized red vest given to me so voters could easily identify that I was a designated Arlington county polling volunteer and that I was there to help them.
My first task was to assist curbside voters. First, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as curbside voting in Virginia. These were generally older voters or people with disabilities. Many voters had trouble walking to the assigned inside polling location. My job was to get their ID and voting card and bring it to the election chief. Then monitor as a third party to ensure everything was on the up and up. I meet some wonderful people and received on pat on the back and even a smooch from a 94-year-old women who hadn’t missed an election since she was 18. It really felt good helping people who wanted to vote but had some limitations take part in democracy. Let’s just say Wakefield high school is pretty big, so I got lots of steps
My next job was to stand next to the ballot box and ensure that after people put their ballots in and the light turned green. A few people had walked away before this happened and I had to chase them down the hall. If they exited before the light turned green their vote wouldn’t count. Also during this process, I needed to ask everyone if they had taken the pens from the voting booths. Sounds trivial, but if there are no pens, you can’t mark your choice on the paper ballet, therefore you can’t vote. I also had to report every hour when I was working the ballot box how many votes had been cast. Local Arlington county people were their checking turnout along with the one political party (this is legal). My district had higher turnout this mid-term than in the 2016 Presidential Election.
Next, my job was to hand out “I voted” stickers once they cast their ballet and hand out stickers to future voter stickers to the kids and teenagers who came with their parents or even their friends. I think that was the highlight of my day. Generally, the kids were really excited to be there with their parents and get their stickers. I’d always say “ Thanks for coming out to vote,” coupled by a big smile. My Mother always took me to the polls when I was little so it brought back great memories.
There were many people who showed up to the wrong polling location. Many locations in Arlington had changed since the Presidential location. My job was to look up where their polling station was and help provide directions. Arlington County has new tablets that had a build in app so this was very easy to do. Following the tablet lookup, my job was to help with voter registration. Virginia does not do same-day registration for voting rights but there were so many people showed up that thought they were registered but weren’t. I quickly learned how to register people to vote. Although they weren’t allowed to vote in the midterm they are now registered for the next election.
Next, I served a third party witness to the election chief when people needed assistance voting. District 28 is very diverse. It was common to see family members voting together due to a language barrier. There were no Spanish ballots in Arlington County this midterm election. The chief election official would certify that they could sit and communicate together. My job was to oversee and verify that they both parties agreed to this. There were also many people who brought caretakers with them to assist them with voting. I met a blind man who’s grandson assisted him and a few people with intellectual disabilities. They needed the ballot read to them. I had never even considered how people with challenges or language barriers might need help voting. It was an eye-opening experience. These people felt so strongly about participating in the political process they would do whatever it took to cast their ballot.
When things started to get really busy my job was to pre-check ID’s while people waited in line. As mentioned we had high voter turnout and we wanted to get people in and out as quickly as possible. I’d check to make sure they were in the right place to vote.
This experience really makes me want to be more involved in our political and election process. I’m so proud to work for a company that gave me paid time off to volunteer in the community.