New Ways to Advocate:: Becoming an Election Poll Worker

I am an advocate. At my very core, I fight. This trait is embedded deeply and fuels most of my desires to engage in the world. I am also more introverted than most would assume when they meet me. I dread the emptiness of small talk. I cannot stomach a crowd of chit-chat. All of this is key to understanding the complexity of my next statement. Being distanced from all the people for the last six months has been simultaneously freeing and exhausting. With world events in crisis mode and recognized pain on every street corner, the fighter in me has felt sidelined. When a foundational piece of your being is stifled, finding outlets to express your you is more than important, it is vital. 

Looking Deeper for Ways to Advocate

As the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, I found myself falling deeper in despair. Sure, I love to write, but words on a screen can only go so far in fostering my love of advocacy. I was not up for Facebook fights and Twitter wars. I knew that I needed to find ways to engage and empower myself and others that were fitting to the times. One day I heard a request for help that I would have normally skimmed over. I am here for the big moments. I like to be a part of the loud and the demonstrative. This request did not feel significant. Until it did. It was a request for poll workers for the election. People who were willing to show up and help make the election in November possible. I was listening. 

What’s At Stake? 

According to ABC13, the Harris County Clerk’s office is hiring more than 8,000 for paid work during the upcoming election. To adequately staff the more than 750 polling locations, it takes a well organized machine of humanity to hold elections in the Houston area. And that’s just Harris county. The Greater Houston area is made up of 8 counties. For these polling locations to run, we need workers. For our votes to count, someone needs to show up to help work the election. 

Why Does it Matter? 

I remember the first time that I went to vote. I was an eager teenager looking to change the world with my first punch of a chad. For those that are too young to get the hanging joke therein, these are valuable lessons. Voting is not always as simple as it seems. I think about my own dad. He struggles to use the TV remote correctly. We are asking him to comfortably and easily use technology to access his most basic American right. It takes a village to make these days run smoothly and without delay. We have all seen the reports of hours of waiting to vote. There is one thing that makes these stories even worse:: a lack of staffing and assistance at the polls. 

Why Does it Matter This Year?

I voted in the 2020 primaries with my newly minted 18 year old daughter. It was a special day. For years she dreamed of exercising her own voice in the polling booth. Her dad and I were thrilled when the woman that checked her in called out, “FIRST TIME VOTER” and the entire room cheered. This precious woman was sitting at her assigned position with her walker directly beside her.

From my experience of voting in our area, many of the traditional poll workers are retirees. Many have faithfully served in these roles for years. As their commitment to our election process remains strong, the COVID pandemic has brought a new set of challenges for our older friends. Their increased risk factors now ask them to not only serve, but also place their own health on the line to work in person. When this sunk in for me, my need to advocate spirit was sparked. I cannot work on a vaccine. I cannot change the things that we have lost to the need to socially distance. I cannot even make the voting process 100% safe. But the more that I contemplated my role in this particular arena, I knew what I needed to do.

How Does This Even Work?

For all of my advocacy work, in so many areas of governmental life, I had little knowledge about the process of becoming, training and working an election. There are many layers of learning, but for a very helpful guide to this information, I encourage you to visit workelections.com. This is a non-partisan project that was established to help centralize up-to-date information on working the election. I have found this site key in helping me make my decision to work. Each county oversees their own election, and you must apply to work for the county in which you are a registered voter. I have included the links to the Houston area sites if you would like more information: Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Fort Bend, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, Waller.

A Peek Into My Experience

When I made the decision to work this election, I applied on my county’s site. As a mom of older teens that does not work outside the home, I was able to commit to work the entire election day {7am-7pm} as well as early voting as needed. I filled out the online application which was SUPER easy and hit submit. In less than 24 hours, I received an email that I was accepted as a worker and that my name will be submitted to local polling location judge for assignment. It was SOOOOO simple! While I have not received my specific assignment, I know that I am a part of a group of people that have committed to seeing our elections and our humanity be better this fall. My job is not to control the outcome, I’m instead an advocate for the process. I have engaged and welcomed a new way of showing up. Here’s to using this bizarre season of 2020 to look beyond the comfortable and easy, and stretch ourselves to advocate and serve in ways that we might not have ever considered. 


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