I registered to be a Westchester poll worker because I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. According to the media, social media, and ￼￼the house in our neighborhood with the “Unleash the Kraken” flag, our system is broken. I figured that getting involved would give me perspective on local politics, so I set out to reassure myself that our elections are fair and secure.
After sailing through the online and in-person training and ￼￼certification process, I was ready for my first election inspector experience. My assignment was the June 28, 2022 primary, which determined candidates for New York’s State assembly, lieutenant governor and governor. It’s a long day, with a 5 a.m. start to set up the machines, organize the check-in tables, and tally the materials against a comprehensive checklist before we open the polls at 6 a.m.
Since this was a primary election only for voters registered as Republican or Democrat, we had to confirm that each voter’s registration was with either party, then, once they are verified in the system, supply them with the appropriate ballot.
Over the course of the day, a voter pointed to one party’s ballots, joking about burning them, and another lectured us on the “necessity” of showing a photo ID to vote (not currently required in New York State).
It was my job to remain politically neutral. As a human Switzerland, I avoided all political chit–chat and turned the conversation to local eateries, where to hike, and how our public library system is the best kept secret in Westchester (I am a trustee of the fantastic Hendrick Hudson Free Library). Everyone seemed to appreciate that this was not the place to push an agenda, just a building where people were casting their votes.
The prevailing spirit throughout the day among the inspectors was collaborative and professional. I gained a new appreciation for the system because when we do our jobs right, there really isn’t any room for shenanigans.
Aside from our advising one voter turn a ￼political party logo shirt inside out to comply with election rules prohibiting any form of partisan signage within a 100-foot vicinity of the polling place, and a phone call we placed to the head office to find out whether or not a candidate delivering cookies to poll workers was considered “electioneering” (it’s not, as long as you bring the cookies for everyone and aren’t asking for anything in return), there was little to no drama. The most common task of the day is looking up a voter’s address to direct them to their district’s machine.
If you want to be a voting all-star, fast-track your check-in by knowing your district before you arrive at the polling place. You can check your status anytime at voterlookup.elections.ny.gov.
Make sure you get to your polling location well before it is scheduled to close because at that closing time, we freeze the voting line with those who are already on it. Once the last person in the queue casts their vote, we close our stations, make sure the vote counts match check-in numbers, then send the results to be tallied at a separate, secure location.
Overall, I found the 16–hour workday to be a fulfilling, fun way to be active in my community and I’m looking forward to doing it again for the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
See you at the polls.
Steve Pavlopoulos is a freelance writer and producer living in Cortlandt Manor. ￼