On Election Day, I spent my time evaluating polling places for my local League of Women Voters in Prince George's County, MD and the word that kept coming to mind was “community”.
I saw community everywhere I looked, neighbors greeting each other in the parking lots of their polling places, parents holding their children’s hands and whispering to them about the important act they were about to undertake, volunteers working for candidates checking the vote totals and greeting people asking for their vote.
There is one group of community members however, that I want to take a minute out to acknowledge and thank and without whom Election Day would not function –poll workers and election judges. These are the people who volunteer to spend 12-14 hours in service to their community to make sure the rest of us can vote!
As I traveled to various polling locations in Maryland, I saw many heartwarming instances where these volunteers and their service to our democracy made a real difference.
- One precinct did not have the required signage delivered to the polling place. While the Board of Elections was called to deliver signs, the election judges did not want to delay the experience for the citizens seeking to vote, so they went into action. They canvassed the school that served as the polling place, found colorful paper and markers to work up the directional signage needed to help voters find their way from parking lot to auditorium. Inside, poll workers greeted voters and did verbal reminders, including about what to do if they needed assistance.
- At another precinct, one election judge patiently assisted a visually impaired voter to a polling station with auditory equipment, so she could cast her vote. While one might say that was part of her “job,” it was that special extra care I saw in the way the election judge assisted the voter that demonstrated how important it was to both of them that this voter could cast her ballot.
- At one busy polling place, after an elderly woman cast her vote, a poll worker carefully assisted an elderly spouse from where he was waiting and brought him to his wife as they’d been separated during the voting process.
- Smiles and words of welcome greeted voters in many of the polling places I visited. In some places where one or two volunteers had not shown up, poll workers assisted each other in ensuring a smooth experience for voters.
As one of my mentors, former US Senator Paul Wellstone once said, "As free citizens in a political democracy, we have a responsibility to be interested and involved in the affairs of the human community, be it at the local or the global level." On Election Day, these people take that responsibility farther than most and I am grateful to have spent a day in the presence of so many great citizens who care about our community and our democracy enough to give their time to help ensure the rest of us can vote.