Though it will not be the end of the election for the workers, Election Day finally arrived.
I returned to Reno on Sunday afternoon, after a recuperative weekend at home. On Monday, I worked on “ballot cure,” a process that varies widely by state. In Nevada, if a mailed ballot has a problem (e.g., the signature does not match the one on file), the voter is allowed to “cure” it by providing other identifying information or emailing a copy of an ID. This must be done by close of business the following Tuesday.
The political parties work hard to chase down their voters and help them cure their ballots by the deadline, whether by phone or in person (as I did). Of course, there were many unanswered doors, but when there was an interaction, it was generally positive.
Many voters had already been notified of and had fixed their problem. In several cases, I helped them to do it on the spot and emailed an affidavit and photos of their ID to the Elections Department. They were grateful for the help, which was amazing, since most had been contacted multiple times by phone and in-person visits (when they weren’t home). I can imagine being irritated, but they were far from it.
On Election Day, I was back to poll observing at a suburban middle school from 7am to 7 pm. I did not have high hopes for this polling location. When I arrived at 6:50, the scene was chaotic. The staff barely got the equipment in place by the opening; when voters arrived, it was obvious the workers were inexperienced and poorly trained. Fortunately, by around 9:30, their on-the-job training was working. Even when things were at their most challenging, however, the voters were pleasant and patient.
In mid-morning, it started snowing, a lot. Inclement weather is always a big worry for election officials, usually depressing turnout, but the turnout was exceptional for a midterm election, as it was all over the country. One voter walked over a mile in the snow to get to the polling place.
Many moms and dads brought their children. (Seeing all of them evoked the memory of going into the voting booth with my mother, back when it was really a booth and you pushed a lever to close the curtain.) One mother brought her (adult) son, who was voting for the first time--and she was so proud, she wanted everybody to know it. Election Day really is a communal event, which is a down-side to the convenience of vote-by-mail and early voting.
The pace of voting remained steady – at most eight or ten waiting in line – until around 3:30 or 4, when it changed dramatically. It was still snowing, and the line of wet voters kept growing. By five o’clock, there were close to 50 waiting, and I was concerned that some would become impatient and leave. Though 45-50 in line was typical for the next hour, no one left.
I began to wonder if we would close by 7. The law says that any voter who is in line at 7 must be allowed to vote, and it seemed possible that there would still be a line by then. But by 6:30, there were only 21 waiting to vote. By 7, there was no line at all, and the poll closed. I waited for the ballot count, which the poll workers calculated and announced: there had been 450 in-person voters that day, and another 111 had dropped off their mail-in ballots.
The counting of the in-person votes, mailed ballots, cured ballots, and provisional ballots then began. As I write, the election has been called for the Democrat, a projection based on who has voted and where, and what is left to count. Every ballot must be counted for the election to be official.
As I said at the outset, the election is still not over for the poll workers--and for many others as well.
Estelle H. Rogers
LDAD Board member and retired Voting Rights Attorney