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.

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