A piece of advice for voters today: Trust your election worker

November 2, 2021 3:33 am

A sign reminds voters they need photo ID to vote at polling station at Hillsboro Presbyterian Church on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Linda Ditch has been a freelance writer for two decades.

Election Day for a poll worker starts early. My alarm sounds at dark o’clock, when most people are still snuggled comfortably under their warm blankets. I pour myself a large cup of coffee in a travel mug, grab my insulated bag containing breakfast, lunch and dinner for the day, and head out to my polling location. I meet my fellow poll workers at 6 a.m., and our day won’t end until approximately 8 p.m.

I have followed this routine for the past five years. Though it’s a long day, I consider it an honor. My goal is to make sure every eligible voter has the opportunity to exercise their right to choose at the ballot box. That is why I’m appalled when stories in the news media cast doubt on the credibility of election workers, and why I’m discouraged by the thought that voters may doubt the integrity of an election.

In Shawnee County, where I serve, election officials work diligently to ensure voters feel confident in the process. I am one of the 1,500 county election workers charged with the task of making sure your voting experience is as pleasant as possible. Some of the people I work with have done this job for decades. Many are retired, but a few like me take the day off work to participate.

When you enter a polling station, a worker checks you in with the Express Poll Book tablet, which has no internet connection, so hacking is not an issue. After you sign your name on the tablet, the poll worker also signs to confirm they checked your photo identification and acknowledge you are eligible to vote in the election. Should a question arise, the election office knows exactly what poll worker to contact.

Voters may mark their ballots in one of two ways. Most choose to do so by filling in the small oval next to a candidate’s name with the provided pen. The other option is using the Express Vote touch screen. This paper-based system is excellent for people who have difficulty filling in the ovals or are visually or physically impaired.

During our election training, it is strongly stressed never to deny any voter a ballot. Should something be amiss with your registration at check-in, or if you forgot your ID, you are allowed to vote a provisional ballot.

– Linda Ditch

It is important to understand the Express Vote is not like the electronic voting machines of the past. It does not count votes or keep any kind of record. When the voter finishes, it will print out a paper ballot, which is then counted just like the hand-marked ballots.

The DS200 Ballot Scanner tabulates all the ballots for your specific polling location. Like the Express Poll Book and Express Vote, it has no connection to the internet in any way. Best of all, whether you marked your ballot by hand or with the Express Vote, there is a paper ballot for every voter as a record.

During our election training, it is strongly stressed never to deny any voter a ballot. Should something be amiss with your registration at check-in, or if you forgot your ID, you are allowed to vote a provisional ballot. This gives you the chance to follow up with the election office afterward to correct any issues and have your vote counted.

Many of the problems poll workers deal with at each election can be avoided with these simple steps:

  • Did you register to vote by Oct. 12? That was the deadline for the current general election Nov. 2. If you’re not sure, just call your county election office to check.
  • Have you moved since you last voted? Does the election office know that? Make sure your registration is up to date so you’ll be at the correct polling location.
  • Speaking of which, do you know where to vote? All registered voters receive a card in the mail with their polling location. If you’re not sure, call the office to check.
  • Make sure you bring a photo ID.
  • Leave any campaign paraphernalia at home, including hats, T-shirts, buttons, and signs. Bringing any of those things to the polls is considered electioneering, and state law prohibits it within 250 feet of the entrance to a voting location.

Being an election worker is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever performed. I hope you will feel confident in the voting process, and when you see coverage casting doubt on the integrity of election workers, you will understand the vast majority of us are diligent in our jobs. We take our oath to support the Constitution of the United States seriously and discharge our duties according to the law.

Now make sure to get out there and cast a ballot.

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Linda Ditch
Linda Ditch

Linda Ditch has been a freelance writer for two decades. The focus of her work is primarily food, travel, education, home improvement, natural health, and pet care topics. Her articles have appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Concord Monitor (New Hampshire), Boston Globe and Dallas Morning News, as well as KANSAS!, Topeka Lifestyle, Topeka, Shawnee, and CatFancy Magazines. She also created The Iconic Dishes of Kansas and Topeka City Guide for the Food Network’s website. Before entering the freelance world, she was senior editor at Taste for Life magazine.