By Carolyn Sackstein
I am a consumer of news.
In addition to writing for TBR News Media, I read, watch and listen to various news formats. The troubling reports of harassment and intimidation of poll workers across this country have both saddened and angered me.
I have long believed that citizens must actively engage in the democratic process. I get a thrill each time I vote. And so, it became incumbent upon me to do more than just vote and donate to organizations that promote the election process.
My journey to do more started in September when I participated in a League of Women Voters of Suffolk County event in Patchogue. After learning that there was a shortage of election workers, I was determined to do my part.
After the event, during which I handed out voter registration forms and voter information literature, I drove to the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 700 Yaphank Ave. in Yaphank. I was greeted by a friendly and professional staff, who assisted me in signing up for a position as an election inspector.
They verified that I met the requirements. The staff asked which of the yearly training dates I would prefer to attend. I was then informed that I would receive a letter confirming the date, place and time of my training.
Training occurred at Brookhaven Town Hall and was conducted by a SCBOE employee. Each trainee received a detailed booklet. The three-hour class covered matters of election law. The procedures for opening and closing the election site were quite detailed.
Yes, there was a test at the end of the class. Each prospective election inspector was required to pass the test before being certified and sworn in with an oath of office. Election inspectors are compensated for required training sessions and when they work on early-voting days and on Election Day at an assigned polling site. Before leaving, we were told to expect a letter in October that would inform us to report to our assigned site at 5 a.m. on Election Day.
On Tuesday, Nov. 7, I walked into my assigned polling site at 4:57 a.m. It was only five minutes from my house. An experienced co-worker greeted me. As the three other workers arrived, we began the setup process. We were fortunate in that our location served only one election district. Other sites may have multiple election districts.
Our first voter arrived seconds after 6 a.m. The remainder of the day passed as a continuous stream of voters moved through the signature verification process and received their ballots. Our experienced coordinator helped those who needed assistance with a variety of issues.
Four people did not show up to work. As a result of being short-handed, we did not have any “breaks.” We watched for a lull in the line so we could go to the restroom. Rarely was the line backed up, and never by more than about seven people.
Next year, the demand for poll workers will be greater due to an expected larger turnout.
The main complaint was from people who did not recall getting instructions on their polling location and arrived at the wrong place. We verified their polling site and, if needed, provided directions.
The voting public was courteous, and many thanked us for our efforts. One voter overheard our coordinator mention to a co-worker that he had not eaten all day. The voter returned with a dozen donuts to be shared. His appreciation and kindness made the long day worthwhile.
Polls closed at 9 p.m. We packed up and secured all equipment and ballots. Our day ended at 11 p.m.
As a first-timer, I had been a bit anxious. I was blessed with patient, helpful and supportive co-workers. My primary takeaway? Becoming an election inspector was worthwhile, fulfilling and deeply satisfying. I felt safe.
I encourage everyone who qualifies to become an election inspector. It is a singularly edifying and enriching experience. To lend a helping hand for the betterment of our democracy, please visit www.elections.ny.gov/becomepollworker.html.
The writer is a reporter for TBR News Media.