I grew up in a conservative household and patriotism was a big part of our lives. The first time I went to vote as an 18 year old I remember there being a line of individuals across the table who would validate your information and provide you your ballot. They were all elderly retirees but I saw them as gatekeepers of democracy volunteering their time to help ensure the fundamentals of America's bedrock system of voting were honored. From that moment I wanted to do what they did.
Over the years I have voted regularly be it a humble Comptroller or School Board position or for the Presidency I would do my research, show up on election day and do my civic duty. Occasionally I would ask about how they came to be in the role of "Election Judge". Even the name sounds cool to me... Election JUDGE. I imagined you had to know someone or have a background in law but it turns out it's much simpler. They actually struggle to get volunteers because the elections are held on Tuesdays and you need to commit to more than 12 hours to man the polls.
When Dave turned 18 I took him up to the election board in our county to sign him up. While there I saw literature for the spot I coveted and casually inquired. They were excited to talk to me about it and added my name to their call list for the next time they had training. Nearly a year went by and I got a call asking if I was still interested, naturally I jumped at it and they emailed me a link to register. A background check later and I was setup to learn the ins and outs of managing a polling place.
As expect most of my classmates could have been my parents (or grandparents) but a few soccer moms were thrown in for good measure. The class was only 2 hours long and we left with a lengthy booklet and several addendums. While I was still very pleased with the experience I got the odd sense that they were running on a very tight budget. The papers looked like the ones I got as a kids in school in the 80s that came off of an old mimeograph. We had newer iPads but the technology was a challenge for many in the class.
A couple of months later I got my first assignment, A simple primary in a small polling site with only a few hundred registered voters. I showed up a few minutes before 5 AM and met my coworkers. An elderly gentleman who spent his prior life as a farmer and was wearing overalls who didn't say much at all, a born again Christian who had plenty to say and a middle aged lady who was the only experienced one amongst us and who never let us forget that she was the one "in the know".
We were 4 very different personalities but found comradery in our shared experience and were able to make it work. They paired us up 1 Republican and 1 Democrat so we sat with the same person all day long and wouldn't you know it the evangelical lady got my ear and never let it go. Her and I also happened to be the Return Judges meaning that at the end of the day we were responsible for delivering all the ballots and equipment back to the county election board. By this time it was dark and we had to wait through a long line of cars as every other poll tried to arrive at roughly the same time creating a backup blocks long.
Since then I've worked a few other small elections and the big one, the 2020 Presidential Election (where I got this sweet pin). We were quite busy for the first few hours but then it died toward the end. Roughly 50% of the registered voters came in to put pen to paper. Although as this was during heavy Covid restrictions many folks may have voted early or through the mail. I enjoy being a part of history and hope to be asked to return for years to come. As Ana is now a citizen she can join me too!