I’ve read a few stories about vote fraud although so few seem to hit the media that liberals have no difficulty claiming it a non-problem. Hence they are up in arms about new voter ID requirements as they push to weaken standards for recording votes. Thus it seemed a good idea to volunteer to work the polls and see what is actually going on. Since I live in an area that has a high concentration of Democrats, I thought it would be interesting to witness this process first hand as an election official.
In preparation, the County Board of Elections organized a training session for assembly, operation, maintenance and shut down of the voting machines the Wednesday prior to the elections. The session lasted about 1 and 1/2 hours and was attended by approximately 20 people roughly half of whom were returning veteran poll workers. I then attended a 1 hour general training session on Friday morning county wide poll officials in which all rules, procedures and requirements were presented. If that seems like limited preparation, it is. So to supplement my understanding, I went through the online training and preparation class twice prior to showing up at the polls on Tuesday morning at 05:30 am.
Many poll workers are retired and work the day to see friends and neighbors and to earn a few bucks. There were no openings in the area in which I live. I told the County Board Republican supervisor to send me wherever he needed me. Much to my delight, I was assigned to an inner city precinct about 20 minutes from my home.
I arrived at our polling location right at 05:30. Our presiding judge was already assembling the first machine. There were two precincts in my polling location with 4 poll judges per precinct. We occupied one large room in a church supported Community Center. Our precinct was provided with 3 polling machines and the other precinct was provided with 4 polling machines. This seemed odd to me since precincts are designed to accommodate roughly equivalent numbers of voters. As I was the only rookie of the crew, I figured what do I know and left it at that.
The next thing that was most definitely odd was that we had to sign the oath of office and the young 24 year old man who was working his second voting day (the last time was a couple of years ago) signed as a Democrat (there must be 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats). The Presiding Judge informed him that he was a Republican today. He was filling in for his grandmother who was not feeling well. He did not appear to understand really any of the duties of working the polls. He was unemployed and was happy to earn the $120 paid for the days’ work. He had a 4 year old daughter, a girl friend, and lived with his grandmother as both his parents had passed away. He spent his days arbitraging consumer goods on Craig’s List buying at low prices and reselling them at higher prices. Had I not been there, there would have been no Republicans in that Precinct even though two of the poll workers would no doubt have signed as Republicans.
Our team managed to get all set up including posting the various required notices, setting up the 3 voting machines, signing off that they were all beginning at zero, and organized as to assigned duties in plenty of time to greet our first voters at 06:30 am. Our presiding judge, an amiable, talkative, and good humored retiree was a veteran of 9 years of working the polls and was well versed in his duties.
At 06:30 the polls opened and after about 45 minutes we had our first voter come through. since this was a primary, and in Ohio, it is considered a Closed Primary, voters are required to declare which party’s ballot they wish to vote. For this election they were obligated to choose between Democrat, Republican, Green Party, Libertarian Party and Independent (or Issues only as no candidates were running under that label). They could choose to vote any party’s ballot they wished regardless of their actual affiliation. They were limited however to voting only 1 slate of candidates, they could not vote multiple party’s ballots.
For this Super Tuesday vote, all of the news and energy was focused on the Republican presidential challengers. There were no real newsworthy Democratic races save for some county officials (Sheriff), and local state representatives, prosecutors and judges. My expectation was for a low turnout particularly for the precinct to which I was assigned. I had no idea how low the turnout would actually be.
Our precinct had roughly 14 pages of computer printout names registered with about 40 names per page for a total of around 560 voters. Our final vote count for the day was 46 voters or about 8% turnout which is pretty abysmal considering that there was a school tax levy on the ballot for the city schools. And out of those 46 votes cast were 2 Republican votes and 44 Democrat votes.
My duty for most of the day was to check voter ID’s and have voters sign the registration book. The voter ID requirements in the State of Ohio are extremely lax. Photo ID’s are not required, merely some evidence that you live in the district is all that is necessary. Consequently, a bank statement, a utility bill, a paycheck with your address on it, virtually any kind of document that verifies your address is all that is needed. Ohio does not really have any procedures to prevent aliens or non-citizens from voting if they are inclined to vote. This also means that anyone can show up and represent themselves as someone else as long as they have one of these valid address verification documents.
Turnout being as low as it was, the voter validation procedures did not present any difficutlies. Every voter that I encountered that day presented an Ohio Driver’s License. There were a total of two incidences for me all day. One, a voter’s Driver’s License had been expired for two years. This I caught performing my duties examining his license, and while the voter was on the registration book, since he could not produce a valid ID, was required to vote a provisional ballot. The second issue I encountered was a voter who appeared with a valid drivers license, containing an address that was verified to be within our precinct, but was simply not present in the registration book. She was also required to vote a provisional ballot even though she claimed to have voted previously.
When the day ended, our team was efficient at closing down the machines, we followed the procedures to secure the printed audit trails, printing three copies, disassembling the machines, and recording the ballot counts in the Poll Book. With many steps along the way, each poll worker is required to sign off on the activity undertaken giving the appearance of bipartisan validation in the process. As I was asked to sign the back page of the poll book in which ballots cast are tallied by machine, party identification, and type (provisional, 17 year old, unused paper ballots for each party) the woman recording the totals and managing the poll book for the day had mistakenly totaled all of the ballots under the Democratic column. I pointed out to her that there were two Republican ballots and that her totals were incorrect. She was somewhat offended that I corrected her but I think she did not really understand the reconciliation table in the poll book and corrected the columns after I pointed out how it should be done.
The final act is that the machines and all of the supplies are to be loaded in the car of the presiding judge and transported back to the Board of Elections. I won a coin flip in the morning against the 24 year old man who was acting as a Republican for the day and so was awarded the task of accompanying the presiding judge with the machines and ballots back to the Board of Elections. He loaded them in his truck and left me no room to sit with him. When I suggested that I would follow him in my own car back to the Board, he told me it was not necessary, that there were plenty of people back there to help unload the vehicle and that I would be paid the extra $5 anyway on an honorarium basis as if I had accompanied him. I decided that I would follow him anyway but when I got back to my car, started it and took off, he was already gone from sight. I knew the way and it was only about 3 miles down a major four lane road. I pulled into the parking lot of the Board of Elections but did not see his truck. Quite possibly, he had already pulled around the rear of the building where orange cones were assembled and which I assume was for unloading the equipment. I did not drive back there but rather pulled out and went on home. My civic duties were done for the day.
What I learned was that the process is pretty good but that the bipartisan representation at the polling locations is easy to game and is most likely gamed on a pretty widespread basis given that certain precincts are overwhelmingly Democratic. It appears also that there are simply insufficient Republican volunteers to work these polling locations and ensure that the procedures are adequately followed. Why this problem is allowed to persist and why there is not a more concerted effort to staff these locations with proper representation is something I do not understand.
Further, it is clear to me that a picture ID law is necessary in the State of Ohio as the ID law requirement is so lax that a non citizen, temporary resident from another state, or committed partisan individuals could vote in multiple precincts passing themselves off as someone else and vote for that registered individual. Also, if someone shows up without any ID and no confirmation that they even belong in that precinct, insisting that they be allowed to vote, they are given a provisional ballot which gets stuffed into an envelop containing a voter registration form. The Board of Elections will then process that vote in 10 days if that person shows up to provide something, who knows what. I have not been privy to what happens back at the BoE so who knows how that process is actually carried out.
In short, the process is poorly designed validating voters addresses rather than their actual identities, and poorly executed with insufficient representatives from the Republican party to staff the heavily Democratic precincts. Correcting this should be a major focus of the Republican Party going forward and certainly prior to the November election.