I will never work the polls again

CJ’s Photography

I will never work the polls again— for at least the next few years.

I arrive at 6 A.M. The sun is barely awake, and so am I. I walk inside the elementary school and meet my co-workers for the day. Luckily, they’re all welcoming and energetic. For the next hour, I post signs around the front of the building informing voters on the polling process, move tables around, and recite an oath promising that I won’t influence who voters select on the ballot.

Eventually, 7 A.M. rolls around. Community members are itching to get past the locked doors. My first job is writing down names of voters who arrive along with their political party. As each voter walks through the door, I pray they don’t unload their political baggage to my co-workers and I. Wearing a shirt supporting a candidate is one thing, but screaming who you’re voting for to a nonpartisan panel of poll workers is another.

The hours drag on. At 10:00, a small group of civilians stand outside of the building, handing out pamphlets for various causes. Honestly, I feared voter intimidation would happen. Luckily, it’s just the primaries. Unless voters choose to switch their political parties inside the building with the Judge of Elections, they can only nominate people within their registered political party. I was surprised how many “passionate” voters didn’t know this.

Throughout the day, I served hundreds of voters. The most memorable people were the ones who thought they were making a life-changing political statement by loudly declaring who they were planning on voting for. Or, even better,  some made their presence known by purposefully stomping or making an obnoxious noise to get the attention of other voters. If I wasn’t working a 13 hour shift, then maybe I would have be more tolerant. No, I did not choose to work that long. As a poll worker, unless you’re a minor, you have to work before the polls open to after they close in the evening.

Earning $175 in one day as a teenager seems like a sweet gig, right? As someone who works at most two days a week making $10 an hour, $175 is way more than the usual weekly paycheck. If you have this mindset about working the polls like I did, you’ve got it all wrong. First of all, you’re not allowed to leave the voting room at all any time during the day. No going on walks or taking a break outside. Second, you are dependent on others to provide you food. Although I packed my lunch, I was confined to the room until 7:30 P.M. Thankfully, my mother dropped off food around dinner time.

Working the polls does get you out of school for the day, but it IS NOT worth it. I developed a greater appreciation for public schooling after working the polls. It was painful checking the time on the clock on the wall, especially when I realized how many hours my friends had been home from school while I was still stuck at the elementary school.

Unless you hold zero political beliefs or have no care absolutely for the future of the United States, DO NOT work the polls!

Unless you hold zero political beliefs or have no care absolutely for the future of the United States, DO NOT work the polls. I can guarantee you will be angry or hold some sort of grudge towards your fellow neighbors after helping them vote. Part of assisting them with voting is learning what political party they belong to. I am not revealing my political beliefs, but I am telling you, you will develop some sort of distaste for the people you thought you liked. That is my warning.

I will never work the polls again until there are a few changes made. To voters: I suggest voting by mail. It is not a fraudulent way of voting, and your vote is just as equal if you voted at a polling place. It cuts down on the seemingly never-ending line of voters waiting time too. Personally, it’s a lot less annoying for polls workers. We don’t need to spend time out of our day listening to your political rants as we try to write your name down in a book, grab a blank ballot, and grab a ticket with your political party on it.

Please do not think that I am discouraging voting. It is crucial to democracy. It gives Americans a platform to exercise to their right to vote. However, the system for voting needs to change. In Pennsylvania, mail-in ballots cannot be processed until Nov. 8. In 38 other states, this is not the case. Ballots can begin to be processed prior to election day. If people invested more trust in the mail-in voting process, then this would surely help election officials. Maybe the government wouldn’t need seventeen-year-old teens like me to miss a day of school to help with voting.