Can you find me in this video at the Washington County elections office of people yesterday checking ballots to ensure they are ready for the counting machines? If you know me, you can. If you don’t know me: I’m in the front, wearing flannel. I got along beautifully with my Republican and Independent table mates – the Republican kept giggling at my jokes, especially as the night wore on. Can’t we all get along?
Here’s a video about how the whole process of ballot counting works in Washington County, Oregon (start about 1:15 for the specific details). Pretty much all of the same people in this video were there working this year’s election – the same people come back year after year. The people at the tables are not volunteers – we ARE paid for our work. In Oregon, registered voters receive their ballots by mail, and they can return them by mail so long as they will be received at a county elections office by election day, or, until 8 a.m. election night, voters can put ballots in an official ballot drop box (if they are in line to drop their ballot at 8, they are allowed to drop the ballot in the box later). If someone loses their ballot before filling it out, or never receives it, they can vote at the county elections office on election day before 8 p.m. People vote right up to the deadline – the rush at the deadline is frightening!
I have been trying to work an Oregon election since moving back to the USA in 2009. My wish finally came true this year: I got the call while I was working for the United Nations in Ukraine, actually, and I had to stay up late one night in Kyiv to call the office back and say, yes, I was ready! I wanted to work the election both because I wanted to see how the experience compared to doing the same in Austin, Texas back in 1996, and because I need the experience in order to eventually work overseas as an OSCE election observer.
And here is the machine that sorted the ballots after their signature check, so that we could review them and prepare them for counting. I saw this video being taken, actually – in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Nov. 5. We were always happy when we heard this machine – it meant we would have ballots to count. It’s really boring when there are no ballots to count.
But by 6 a.m., when most everyone had been up for 24 hours, and working for 17 hours, all of the processes were stopped, and we were told we could go home and come back at 2 p.m. Wednesday to finish – we had more than three hours of work still to do, and the quality of our work was suffering. Unfortunately, after working Thursday, Friday, Monday, and then 17 hours straight Tuesday and Wednesday, I had to end my work when I left this morning – I’ll be going to Poland soon, and have MUCH to do to prepare.
Yes, I did tweet a few times during breaks, sometimes from my personal account, sometimes from my professional account. Never anything in appropriate. Kudos to Washington County for sometimes responding to those tweets!