Part of my probably excessive sense of civic duty is the compulsion to work as a judge at the polls during heavy elections. This year, I will be a presiding judge in a local precinct. The wonderful lady who used to do this job is old and ill. Only a fool signs up for a grueling 15- 16 hour day for, as a friend put it, “the big bucks” and I forgot to ask about that.
I went to the Board of Elections for training less than a week ago. The rules have changed since the last election. Some things could be open to challenge. Even as the nice BOE official was fast-talking me through procedures, some some key points sounded almost designed to wreck havoc.
This year for the first time, Ohio officials mailed every registered voter in the state an application for an absentee ballot. A total of 1.3 million applications flooded in, and to date some 1.1 million, or 85 percent, have been returned. But many of the rest won’t be mailed before the election. So what if the voters who failed to send in their absentee ballots show up at their polling places on Tuesday asking to vote
They will be allowed to, but only by provisional ballot in order to make sure they don’t vote twice.
Actually, the answer to every question and every problem for poll workers on Election Day will be the provisional ballot. “In addition to provisional ballots, some 20,000 or more absentee votes that arrive after Election Day will remain uncounted for ten days.”
That’s not all. Ohio is now an early voting state, in the interests of making elections more open and accessible. The Secretary of State authorized early voting, which has been available to voters since October 2, but it was to end a few days before the election. This seemed sensible, to allow election officials to cope with the practical problems of preparing for Election Day. But military votes would still be coming in and that wasn’t fair as judged by the Supreme Court. Ohioans could vote until 2PM today. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?
The BOE has not had time to tally the absentees of the weekend. We have a list of voters who have already voted in our bag of election materials (it is sitting in the back of my car) and in the morning, in the hour we have to set up, we must find those 200+ names of early voters in the poll book and apply stickers next to the names. By the time the polls open, we will have another list of the people who stopped in to vote yesterday. That, in addition to the worrying about the absentee voter applicants who misunderstood the nature of the mailing from the Secretary of State and are marked as having previously voted in our voter lists. Room for confusion? Room for fraud? Room for accusations of fraud? Sure, and plenty of room for simple error on our part, as well.
Fortunately, as of the afternoon, anyway, no UN observers seem to have signed up to watch us in Hambden Precinct D. We’ll be checking id, addresses and scrutinizing signatures. We open at 6:30 AM and close the doors at 7:30 PM, arriving an hour earlier and leaving a couple of hours later. It’s a long day.