No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the midterm elections in Westchester County felt like an important moment for our county, state and nation. I had the good fortune of working the polls again and am pleased to report that it was another rewarding experience.
At my location, there were already three people lined up at 5:50 a.m. before we opened, so the 6 a.m. start time felt like an exciting rush of activity. The flow was decent until lunch, then had ebbs and flows until the commuting crowd came in around 5 p.m. By closing time at 9, it felt like turnout was good. The voters showed up and exercised their constitutional right.
This time around I wasn’t assigned to my electoral district, so I was grateful for the 23 designated early voting locations open in Westchester from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6. I cast my ballot at the historic Lincoln Depot Visitor’s Center in Peekskill which was conveniently close.
Throughout the day, we heard rumblings from voters of some machines not working in Arizona. They said they heard that 20 percent were broken and some folks thought this was concerning. I can say with the utmost confidence that our machine was running perfectly. Aside from the occasional sheet being kicked back for “ambiguous marks” (always fill those bubbles in neatly just like you did in school – no check marks, no x marks, and do your very best to stay within the lines), we had no issues. Most ballots were fed into the machine and processed with confirmation in under 10 seconds.
What I appreciate most about the poll workers at both the Westchester locations I have worked, is that the different parties may share their sometimes-strong opinions about crime, taxes, education, drugs and the general feeling of division many are experiencing within the country, their communities and their own families, but when it comes time to interact with the voters, everyone was professional and non-partisan. We are there to represent the integrity of the voting process and regardless of which party we are assigned to, it’s our job to make sure everyone who comes to the location is able to successfully cast their ballot the way they want to. We are there to sign them in, guide them to the privacy booth, and show them to the machine that will ingest their choices and make sure they are recorded. From there, it’s simple: the candidates who receive the most votes win. One voter summed it up perfectly, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.”
If you have the time and the energy (and if your employer will allow you to take a day to serve) I highly recommend signing up to become a poll worker. With more than 50 percent of all New York’s poll workers over the age of 60, it’s the perfect time to learn from the experienced (and amazingly helpful) mentors who have kept our in-person voting process running fairly, efficiently, and accurately for so long.
Steve Pavlopoulos is a freelance writer and producer living in Cortlandt Manor.