Worcester Elections 2012 – Observations of an Observer

photo credit: powsquare

photo credit: powsquareI spent7 hours yesterday sitting in the lobby at Worcester Technical High School as a poll observer for the Voter Protection Network. I signed up for that duty after hearing about the shenanigans that happened at various Worcester polling places during the primaries. And I’m glad I put in the time because what I saw made me proud and glad, even when things didn’t go exactly as smoothly as they should have gone. A few examples from the day:

One teacher brought two of her classes up to the polls to see voting in action. She walked them through, explaining what each poll worker does, showing them the ballot and what a voting booth looks like. When she asked for questions from the class, the first question was “what do you have to do to become a poll worker?” Loved it that the first question was about how to be more involved in the electoral process.

One voter came in and asked for assistance. The poll warden responded to his request in fluent Spanish, followed all the correct procedures regarding assistance from a poll worker and the gentleman marked his ballot and went on his way. Less than half an hour later, he was back with two other gentlemen whom he directed to the poll warden, telling them in Spanish, “Just ask. That man will help you. It’s easy.”

A teacher came up with a kid from one of her classes who had registered to vote earlier in the year, but wasn’t on the precinct list. There was some confusion back and forth, and things were very busy. The young man went back to class without an answer — and returned after class to wait around while the warden tracked down his information and told him where to vote. Big ups to the warden for being persistent, and especially to the student, for caring enough to come back and find out where to vote.

There was some confusion caused by redistricting. We saw a number of people coming in who hadn’t checked their polling place first — but more concerning, we saw a lot of people coming in who said they had called to find out where to vote and been given that location… only to find they were supposed to be voting in a different precinct. Big kudos to the warden, who not only looked up the correct precinct for each of those people, but who made a point of calling ahead to that precinct to make sure that their name was listed on the rolls there.

There was an almost constant line waiting to vote, something that the poll workers — many of whom have manned the same precinct for several years — don’t recall ever happening before. According to one, there were more voters before 8 a.m. at that precinct than there generally are in a full day during other elections. I heard similar from the poll workers at my own precinct when I went to vote just after 3 pm. Great turnout!

Overall, it sounds like what I saw at my little corner of the election was typical of what happened across the Worcester polls, according to the T&G report on the polls. Kudos for that go out to the many people who stepped up after the primaries to raise issues, to Chris Robarge and the Voter Protection Network and to David Rushford, Worcester City Clerk, who put his foot down about voter intimidation and called additional poll worker training  to make sure the rules were clear. It’s obvious that people worked together to defuse hostilities while making sure that everyone was on the same page with what was allowed and what was not.


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Written by Deb Powers

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