It was the last week in April 2005 and I received a call from the Franklin County Board of Elections wanting to know if I would want to help out as an Election Official for the May 3, 2005 Election. After a few moments of thought on the matter, and revisiting my memories of the traumatic and fraudulent November Presidential Election, the memories of months of work I put into assisting the many heroic citizens from Ohio and across the nation that tried to figure out how big, and how far reaching the apparent theft of the Ohio Election was, I thought I should continue my education on elections. I called and got it set up, that I would be trained in the art of working the polls, and that I would become a Judge, for the May 3 primary election. It seems kind of humorous that Kim Spangler, the Deputy Director of the Delaware County Board of Elections (BOE) is who recommended me to the Franklin County BOE. I had brought some protestors to the Delaware Courthouse and Ohio Wesleyan University in the fall regarding Delaware legally blocking the recount of the presidential election. I was also the Delaware County Coordinator for the Green Party and was there for the recount. It seems like maybe Kim wanted me busy elsewhere, anywhere but Delaware. That’s OK, I still think of her, like now.

I was excited about the opportunity to learn firsthand about this election, and a little sick to my stomach that I was to work for J. Kenneth Blackwell. The last time I saw him was at the Statehouse on March 21st and he was upset that he finally had to answer questions to Bob Ney’s little Congressional Committee. This had him yelling at Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Representative Jaunita Millinder-McDonald regarding the November election. He was so rude, and seemed to be having a mental meltdown.

I was told to report on April 29th to the Park of Roses Recreation Center at 10:00. I did. The classes were instead at the Park of Roses Shelter House. So I went there. Our trainer’s name was Beverly. We each received a manual and a sample page of the Precinct Register of Voter book. We were told that the manuals are revised from last November.

A woman in the class brought up the story of a poll worker last November, that she was working with that slept, “sprawled out” for much of the day, even with them being very busy. She said they called the BOE and asked for assistance with him, and that this disgusted the other workers, and the people coming in to vote. They received no help, they were very frustrated, and the woman asked Beverly what else could be done? The answer…. Call the BOE, it is up to them. The woman said she had done that and received no help.

The issue of putting up flags and signs that denotes the point at which people can pass out literature was explained to us. It is to be 100 feet from the door. The flags and signs are to be pushed into the ground, and we will have a roll of string that is 100 feet long to measure with. These items must be 100 feet from the door of the polling place. If you do not have dirt to push them into, they can be tied to other things like lampposts, polls, some clever woman had bought pumpkins once for them, or even tied to a car antenna. This would likely put them more than 100 feet from the building. I put up my hand and questioned why if they use the same locations, and know there is no ground to push the signs into (because of pavement), why doesn’t the BOE provide a cone, or a can with gravel or some way to put the sign at 100 feet as it is supposed to be. I was told that they don’t do that. Should the 100 feet requirement, be kept to 100 feet I wondered?

We were told that there would be neither Witnesses, nor Challengers for this election. Beverly asked the group if anyone had problems in November with them. No one there did. They agreed that those people had been very helpful with the lines. Beverly was pleased with how it had turned out, and stated that she had been apprehensive prior to Election Day in November.

Beverly said to watch for voters in distress, and if they are not physically able to stay in line, to move them up by asking the other voters if we can process them first. If we have a disgruntle person that says no, let them vote first. Then have the person in distress vote.

We were told about how to use the voter location guide, a book with all the addresses in Franklin County. It gives the polling place for each address, and the location of the polling place. The woman in front of me asked if they had revised the book. The trainer said no and asked why? The woman said that the book was “Bad” in the past for errors. She was concerned with having the wrong information again. She again asked if the book had been revised. We then went on to the next subject, and didn’t deal with the book problems…

I learned that 17 year olds that will turn 18 before the general election can vote for candidates, but only in the primary. They cannot vote for issues. They would vote a provisional ballot, which would receive a pink sticker denoting it as a 17 year olds ballot. This was the first time I had heard this, I thought it was strictly that you had to be 18. I’m learning!

The Precinct Register of Voters has a status for each voter. It says either Status A or Status I. So I asked what this means. Beverly said not to worry about it, that it is for Official Purposes only. I told her that if it is part of our records, I would like to know what it means. She said she was not able to tell me. We were instructed that at the close of the election, the Presiding Judge would deliver the election materials to the designated location. I asked if both a Democrat and a Republican should deliver the materials riding together? I was told that just one person delivers them, and that is determined by which party received the most votes in the gubernatorial race. So each precinct will have a Presiding Judge that will do the delivery. This is a four year term, and is determined anew each gubernatorial race. I brought up that the issue of this would seem fairer, and safer, if we had a person of each party to travel with the votes.

We were split into groups and went to the machines to learn to run them from Bonnie. To start and finish the running of the touch screen voting machines the tapes that record the votes need to be signed by all the poll workers. We were told that if someone was late in showing up to work the election, we could just have him or her sign the tapes at the end of the day. I asked if we should list it on our problems sheet, a place where we are to record any problems that occur during the election. I was told “No”. It seems wrong to me to start the machines and not have the correct number of Democrats and Republicans to oversee the process.

The day of the election was May 3, 2005 and I reported for duty at 5:45 a.m. with the first light of the day starting to push across the sky. I had a good and helpful group of people to work with at the Grace Brethren Worship Center in Westerville, Ohio. I took my job seriously, asked lots of questions, learned a great deal, and enjoyed the variety of people working the two precincts voting there. The voter location guide, the book with all the addresses and precincts had a printing date of 4/11/05 on it. I asked Barb, our presiding judge if it had been fixed since the last election, and told her about the woman with the information that the book had “Bad” errors. She didn’t know anything about it, having any problems, or being fixed.

The BOE had provided a questionnaire for everyone that worked the November 2004 election. It asked lots of questions about the November election, and how to resolve problems from then. There was information on the ADA guidelines for handicap accessibility issues. They wanted us to look at the building for these issues. They wanted to know how many parking places were there. I was very pleased they were asking these questions, looking into what had happened and how to resolve the problems of the past presidential election. I hope they use the information. As for the ADA issues, it would seem that the BOE would want to have a staff person, rather than a poll worker look at these issues and be familiar with the buildings that house the election. At least they are starting to look. I hope for improvements so everyone can have access and utilize their right to vote. The turn out at the polls for this May primary was small, as I was told to expect. I wish everyone took the time to study the issues and candidates, and went out to vote. Our very survival may depend on it.

One of the things that would help with free and fair elections would be to get those that are concerned and able… to work the polls, to be on the front line. Help out, and be a first hand witness to our election process. The pay is $15 for the class, and $95 for Election Day. You get one hour off for lunch. You work from 6:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. or until the voter’s finish and the election area is packed up. They had questions on the questionnaire about wanting idea’s to get more election workers. I understand the incredible importance of having the election workers to show up on time, but the small print on the Assignment and Commitment Card page could make some nervous. It says:

Note: Failure to appear at the designated hour or to perform any duty imposed by law under this appointment can result in you being guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree. Notify Board of Elections immediately of any disability preventing your prompt attendance and service. (O.R.C. Section 3599.17 and 3501.31)

It will take a lot to bring back a feeling of trust to our election system. This is just one more item we can help with.