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Poll Workers - The Last Line of Defense

By Tony Center

My fellow Chatham Dems,

The state Democratic Party of Georgia asked me to both poll watch and monitor absentee ballot voting for the June 9 primaries. These are my observations:

The turnout was beyond all expectations. While there were human errors, most of what I observed was because of the huge turnout.

The poll I watched opened on time. My poll was down three workers. Two declined because of COVID, and one was transferred last minute to another location. The poll had 20 voting machines and 20 printers. Only 10 of each could be used because there weren’t enough outlets. There was only one scanner. There were people waiting in line before 7 a.m. The line grew. I tagged the last person in line and it took him 35 minutes to vote. There were no major problems at this poll.

Absentee ballot processing was a whole different matter. For the first time ever, absentee (mail in) votes exceeded election day in person votes. Processing these ballots is a slow, very slow, manually intensive process. Chatham is the only county in GA with a Board of Registrars and a Board of Elections (let’s tackle this in the future). The BOR received all mail in ballots. Through miscommunication the BOR did not deliver the mailed in ballots to the BOE Monday morning. They didn’t arrive until 2:00 Monday afternoon. And, only 2,000 of the 31,000+ were delivered. The local Republican party then filed a complaint. They said the BOE did not notify the Sec of State that the BOE would start processing the ballots a week early (which is required by law). That delayed processing until Tuesday afternoon.

So, the BOR delivers to the BOE all the mailed in ballots, with a corresponding list of the number of ballots and the names of the mail in voters. Going through the ballots in batches of 100 at a time, teams of two count the mailed in envelopes, compare that count to the number the BOR said they delivered, and match the names on the envelopes to the names on the BOR lists. There will be a few errors -- unsigned envelopes, etc. Those are set aside for dealing with. When all is clear, the mailed in envelopes are opened and the inner sleeve containing the ballot is removed. The removed inner sleeves, again by teams of two, are counted to make sure they match the number of envelopes received. Once completed and confirmed, the mailed in envelopes are removed and saved, then the ballots removed from the inner sleeves. Then again the ballots, by teams of two, are counted to make sure they equal the number of inner sleeves. Again, problems may occur. No ballot, or maybe more than one ballot. Those are set aside and preserved to be dealt with. When all the numbers are satisfied, the ballots, by teams of two, are scanned just as they would be at the poll. The scanner will flag improperly marked ballots. A voter may have checked rather than colored in the oval (I learned this is called “bubbling” the oval). Once again, in teams of two, the monitor shows the flagged ballot and the team determines if the ballot can be counted. If a check instead of bubbling, the decision is easy. If a voter scratched out the original choice and selected another candidate, the decision is easy. If a voter voted for more than one candidate, the decision is easy. All non-easy decisions require more inspection and care. A second team of two then validates what the first team of two decided. As with this paragraph, the procedure is long, arduous, and time consuming. This primary, with all its problems, was also a dry run practice for November. I didn’t notice any unscrupulous actions, but to prevent same and, if mistakes are to be made, I would rather a Dem be on the ground watching and doing.

That is why I am reporting to you. This November is expected to be the largest turnout in history. This will be an inflamed election and voters for both sides will flood the polls. GA can not only flip two Senate seats but also 16 (making a 32 vote difference) electoral votes. It is my opinion that the BOE will need substantially more poll workers and absentee ballot processors or the lines on election day and the processing of mailed in votes will take forever. (I also opine that there should be more locations for in person early voting -- which also requires more poll workers).

My plea to you, my fellow Dems, is that we/you/all of us need to apply to be a poll worker and/or an absentee ballot processor. You must clear a criminal background check and a drug test to qualify. It is a part time position and it pays. Every Chatham Dem postholder who is not running for election should apply. This is something concrete and tangible that will make a difference.

Please, please, please contact the BOE (912-201-4375) and apply.

Based on the numbers from primary voting and all the polls the only way the Republicans can re-elect Donald Trump is by suppressing the vote or corrupting the count. What we, as every day Dems can do, is supply enough people to keep the Election Day lines moving and insuring the proper, and timely, absentee processing.

We cannot afford four more years of Trump as President. Please help Chatham get it right.

Thank you.

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