A Day Off . . . to protect the vote

I usually write every day (although I may shake things up a little on the weekend and put my current project aside to work on something else). To my mind, that’s the best way of reaching my writing goals.

But today, Tuesday, November 7, I will not be writing. Instead, I’ll be working to make sure that the election in my county is carried out fairly and honestly.

I am Vice-Chair of my county’s 3-member Electoral Board. In Virginia, where we have a general election every year, plus primaries most years, this is a nearly constant effort to keep the election machinery running smoothly. This year, we acquired new paper-based optical scan voting machines and spent the early part of the year training election officers and the public in their use. In June we had a primary for statewide offices, and now we are electing the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, plus a number of other offices including representatives to our state legislature.

A big part of my job is recruiting local citizens to work with us as officers of election, the folks who sit at the polling place all day to check voters in, give them their ballots, and operate the machines that tally the votes. We then have to train those officers in the use of the machines and also in the procedures they must follow on election day.

Then, on election day, our Electoral Board is on duty all day, from 5:00 am when our election officers have to show up at their polling places until the polls close, the votes are counted, and the voting machines safely returned to us. If there are no technical problems, polls will open at 6:00 am, and shortly after that my Board colleagues and I will hit the road to visit all 26 of our polling places. (We divide our large county into thirds, so I’ll be driving about 160 miles to visit 8 polling places, spending up to an hour at each.) While there, we check to be sure things are running smoothly, talk to voters and election officers to get feedback about the process, and generally ensure that everyone is happy. We return to the office shortly before the polls close at 7:00 pm, gather results by telephone from the polling places, and then wait for the voting equipment to be returned. Tomorrow, Wednesday, the three of us will gather again to go over the printed results from the machines before certifying the election to our State Board of Elections.

So there will be no writing today, and probably none tomorrow. But this is important work, and I’m happy to do it.