Archive for the ‘presidential election’ Category

DATELINE: Springfield, Illinois

The parking lot at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Walnut at Adams, was so dark when I drove into it at 4:50 am November 6 that even with my vehicle lights on, I could barely see the painted lines on the black asphalt. Parking next to a pickup truck on the far edge ensured that if I stopped close enough that I could open my door and had not feltt my front bumper hit anything, I’d be set for the day. One light over the side entrance to the church, where I had voted two years ago, was good for my pedestrian approach, and after I buzzed the custodian from the vestibule, it soon became apparent we were the only ones there. I understood the importance of the day, having been a  Precinct 50 judge for the previous 6 presidential elections and being pretty sure, this would be this would be history worth engaging for the duration of the day.

The  spacious all -purpose room that would be home to polling places for precincts, 43, 46 and 50 had been set up the night before with voting “booths on the far west wall, and  tables for 43 and 46 judges on the south wall and 50 on the north, next to the kitchen. The acoustics, thanks to the tight-weave “kitchen” carpet would prove superb over the next 16 hours, a major improvement over the previous site of Precinct 50 activity which had a tile floor and what appeared to be painted cinder-block walls. After chatting with the custodian a few minutes, I began removing materials from Precinct 50’s “big grey box” for the next hour’s set up of our part of the venue. Other judges began arriving closer to the designated 5 am, and by 5:20, 14 of the expected 15 judges were occupied in compliance with the election manual which describes, in great detail, what is to be done and in what order. We had all attended three hours of Election  Judge School as recently as two weeks ago, most of us had served during earlier elections, so things went without problems until we discovered that the ballot tabulating machine was not operating as required.  Election Board  technician Jacqui arrived very fast, and fixed the problem 10 minutes before the polls opened at 6:00.

First voters,  a married couple, had arrived about 5:45 and waited patiently in the warm and spacious church lobby until we opened the doors to the all-purpose room. During the previous off-year election, he had been living/voting in New York City, and she had voted in New Jersey across the river.  They were delighted to be in Springfield, and I was delighted to welcome them. 

From my position at the end of the Precinct  50 judges tables, I examined each ballot to be sure it had been initialed in our precinct’s red ballpoint pen. The  ballot handed my way was from judge Dave on my left. I  inserted it into a secrecy sheaf, handed it to the voter, reminded each that the ballot was printed on both sides, and pointed to the ballot box nearby.

Before the voter reached me each  has spoken first with judge Frieda who checked the person’s name and address with her  list recently printed by the election office. Those that were on it took two steps to the next judge who removed a voter application from a binder and asked the potential voter  to sign it. If the signature matched a signature recorded and displayed in that binder and both a Republican judge Dave and Democrat   judge Christy  agreed  that it matched,  Dave initialed the allot and passed it to me. We were short one judge at our precinct, so Dave was doing double duty as signature verifier and ballot initialer.  I kept an hourly tally of voters receiving ballots. Between  6 and 7 we greeted 15.

Those whose names and addresses did not match ours were given  every opportunity to vote. Frieda and Chrisy mad many calls to the election office for clarification and instructions. Several learned they had not come to the right  polling place and were directed to where they could vote. Many provisional ballots were given on site so those requiring them could vote. Later, records would be further cross-checked and vote counted or not.  Those who did not meet residency requirements for county and city candidates and issues were given Federal Ballots that included only candidates for election to federal offices in the D of C.  We issued two November 6.

From 7 to 8, we welcomed 23 voters. . . . .From 8 to 9 — 44 . . . . .From 9 to 10 — 30 . . . .From 10 to 11 — 31 . . . . From 11 to 12 —  38 . . . . From 12 to 1 — 31 . . . .From 1 to 2 — 39 . . . . 2 to 3 — 37 . . . . . 3 to 4 — 24 . . . . . 4 to 5 —  45 . . . . 5 to 6 — 28. Half an hour before the polls closed,  eight more hand voted, and from  6:30 to 7, five more.  I announced to everyone in the polling area at 6:57 tat polls would close in three minutes, and there were no voters and no one waiting to vote  at 6:59.

Lunch for the judges was purchased by respective precinct committeemen, or  “committeepersons,” if you prefer. Republican precinct committeeman George Tinkham sent a friend of his  to visit the two Precinct 50 judges who asked for pizza. No one knew the name of the Democrat Precinct 50 committeeman. Tim Moore, Precinct 45 Democrat committeeman generously purchased  sandwiches for the two Democrat Precinct 50 judges. Several of us had brought food which  we placed in the church kitchen, and all judges from all precincts and parties were invited to help themselves. I brought donuts and grapes, Burnel Heineke brought  a crock pot of home-made chilli and an incredible pineapple upside down cake. Another judge from home-made pumpkin bread.  Delicious! No judge ended the day hungry. 

I had brought a book to read during slow times (The West-Going Heart by Eleanor Ruggles, about Vachel Lindsay), but there was absolutely no time to read, and almost no time to eat. There was more than an hour passing between bites of pizza in early afternoon. Absolutely essential for every judge at Precinct 50 was the mandate to be alert, focused on The VOTERS, and dropping everything to greet all comers with a friendly, welciming attitude. We were all amazed and thrilled by the very large response from voters in all precincts.  I was particularly happy to greet many friends who live in our part of Springfield.

Precinct 50 had begun the day with 800 ballots, and at 7:00 pm, we had used 387. Two ballots had been mistakenly been declared SPOILED before they were tabulated (counted) so we know that 385 voters successfully voted in Precinct 50. Total  ballots successfully processed by the three precincts totaled 1,309.

The greatest challenge of the day came after we closed the doors and it was time to process  ballots. A common single ballot box using a wonderful computer that read each ballot inserted presented the judges with 1,309 ballots that had to be sorted by precinct and then verified VALID.  We were looking for ballots that had not been initialed, that were damaged, that kind of thing. Once the sorting was done, each precinct counted ballots. Simply put, the goal — if say 350 Precinct 50 ballots were counted, we would count 450 unused ballots. If we counted 355 ballots and we then had counted 450 unused ballots, we would know “something’s rotten in Denmark, ” so to speak.  A time-consuming hiccup occurred when after counting, we discovered one more ballot than  we should have had.  We also learned that another precinct was short one ballot. All four Precinct 50 judges had counted our ballots twice, and there was no disputing the number. Early into the process of re-examining every ballot we had, we discovered the missing ballot from the other precinct. Despite each precinct initialing its approved ballots  with different-color ink, we had missed it in the separation and counting process!  The  wayfaring ballot  was returned to its rightful “home” across the all-purpose room, and a silent, but palpable YAHOO we felt by the nine judges from precincts 50 and 46!

The rest of the evening was spent putting all ballots into a special ballot box with a  special seal we would  sign and attach to the box. The rest of the materials were returned to be “big grey box” I had opened at the start of the day. The “big  grey” was placed into the trunk of Republican judge Dave’s car, and Democrat judge Christy carried the ballots out to he car. They would receive extra pay for driving to the Sangamon County Building where a hardy team from the election office would remove the “big grey box” from the trunk. They would then park the car near by, and both Republican Dave and Democrat Christy would deliver the  ballots tot he Ejlection Commission Office inside. They  would sign their names as “delivers” of Precinct 50 ballots for processing.   I left the church at about 855 after carrying the “big grey box” to Dave’s trunk.  One precinct was still processing the goods when I departed. The other had exited 10 minutes earlier.  Dave and Christy would likely be home by 9:45, in time for a late dinner and the 10:00 news.

The parking lot lights showed me what I had missed at 5 am. It had been rainy and misty all day, and it was moderately cool, downright refreshing to be outside after 16 hours inside. At home, I enjoyed the dinner I had purchased the night before for this occasion: a store-made chef salad,  fully half of te store-baked apple pie and all the Carlo Rossi Burgundy I cared to quaff. 

When I crawled under the covers about 11:30, Ohio vote counts were still not tallied, but it looked like things were going in favor of the Democrat candidate for president.  When I arose from six good hours of slumber to head out to the airport museum today, the outcome was  no longer in doubt.

Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.

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