Saturday, February 12, 2005

Training Day

Yesterday, I went to the training class for the election. The time and place had gotten a little mixed up. I thought I had a dentist appointment on the eighth, so I had it rescheduled for yesterday. (It turns out that the appointment was actually today.) When I got the card, it was actually at a different location and it was still on the eighth. Fortunately, I was able to call back and get it rescheduled.

The training isn’t that bad. It’s supposed to last three hours, but sometimes, the instructor can get you out in less time. I’m not really sure why we need to do this each time. I was told that it’s because of the fiasco a few elections back where South Florida got a lot of negative publicity. I don’t care; I’m getting paid for it. It’s just that a lot of the information is the same.

I’m glad that I went, though. It turns out that there is something for me to vote on. There’s a countywide question about slot machines. I have to go to the Web site to see exactly what it is. I also have to go there to find out where the early-voting sites are. Since I won’t be working in my home precinct, I have to either vote by absentee ballot or vote early.

Not a lot of people know about early voting. Anyone that’s a registered voter in Miami-Dade County can go to any of these sites and vote, regardless of where you live. There are only a dozen sites each election, but it still works out better. I think that this is actually one of the benefits of the new machines; it’s actually possible to have every potential ballot on one machine. I think if more people knew about this, more people would vote. Come Election Day, you’ll have to vote in your own precinct, though. (If you show up in the wrong precinct, you can vote a provisional ballot, but it won’t count.)

Anyway, about the class…

The first thing we had to do was watch a DVD about sensitivity. It’s actually not that bad. It was the same one I had seen last time, though. I think after a few elections, it’s going to get redundant, but I think it’s worth it for those that are just starting out. The production was done pretty well.

Most of the class is going through a booklet and going over procedure. Very little of it changes from election to election. The first time I went to one of these classes, I was nervous; it was my first election and they had made me assistant clerk right off the bat. At first, I thought that assistant clerk was the lowest level. The truth was that of the dozen or so people that had worked that first election, only one had had any prior experience, and it wasn’t the clerk.

Anyway, that’s all behind me. Now, all there is to do is to wait until March 8 and show up at 5:45 a.m.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I got a call today from the Elections Department. It looks like there’s going to be an election in March. I live in precinct 151, but I work in 148. I think that this is a local election. (If it’s something that I’m supposed to be voting in, I haven’t heard anything about it.) The good news is that I usually make something like $150. The bad news is that it comes up so infrequently.

You’re probably thinking that $150 isn’t bad for a day’s work. Normally, I’d agree with you, but I don’t think you realize what goes into a day’s work in this case. First off, I have to go in for a training class. Since the whole thing with the 2000 election, Miami-Dade County requires training before each election and that usually takes a few hours. It’s not that bad. There’s usually very little new information each time, so the worst one is usually the first.

The day before the election, I have to go to the precinct at 4:00 to set up. This is because we use those machines and the machines take a while to set up. Once everything is set up, we get to go back home. This could take another few hours. Again, it’s not so bad. (If you’re getting any ideas, I’d think twice because there’s going to be some sort of security there.)

The day of the election is the worst. Voting takes place from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., but that’s not when my day starts and ends. I have to get there between 5:45 and 6:00 a.m. to make sure that nothing has been tampered with. At 7:00, we open the doors for voters and the day begins. The first rush of people is usually waiting for us to open the doors. This will last until 8:00 or 9:00. Then it’s quiet until noon, when we get the lunch rush. The last rush of the day starts at around 5:00, which is when people start to get off of work. It’s not so bad when it’s quiet.

At 7:00, whoever is at the end of the line gets to vote. (The poll deputy is the one responsible for enforcing this.) Once the last person has voted, we start to clean up. Someone has to count and add the number of ballots cast on each machine while someone else adds up the number of signatures in the books. These two numbers should match, but may differ if people sign in and leave before they actually vote. We also have to pack up the machines.

The poll deputy, who’s basically in charge of security, has to remain with the machines until someone can pick them up. The clerk and assistant clerk take everything else to a collection center. Everyone else gets to go home. I’m an assistant clerk, which means that I get to go to the collection site, where I stand in line and sign several papers and stuff. I’ll probably get out of there around 9:00, although the first time that I worked an election, I didn’t get home until close to midnight.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why anyone would put up with this. In my case, it’s for the money. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t have much else going on. I hope you remember what I have to put up with the next time an election comes up in your area. I’m literally not allowed to leave the polling place during the 12-hour span of the election. If I can stay there for 14+ hours, I think you can find the time.