For the 2018 midterm elections, I was given the opportunity to volunteer as a poll worker at one of the multiple polling locations across the United States.
I was assigned to work at Commonwealth Elementary School in Fullerton from roughly 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Volunteering as a poll worker helped me gain an enhanced sense of political efficacy and extensive knowledge on how the voting system in America functions. The following order of events summarizes the long day I had as a poll worker and what I learned.
5 a.m.: I woke up early in the morning to ensure that I had a hefty breakfast and was mentally prepared to work for more than fifteen hours at a polling location. I left my home at 5:30 a.m. to guarantee an early arrival at Commonwealth Elementary School.
6 a.m.: Upon arriving at Commonwealth Elementary School, I was instantly greeted by my enthusiastic supervisor as well as three other volunteers. After being sworn in to ensure that I would not tamper with any official ballots or violate the rights of any voter, I began to work on setting up the entire polling location.
7 a.m.: At 7 a.m., the polls officially opened. There were about six people already lined up outside of my polling location to cast their votes as soon as the polls opened. The other three volunteers and I were put to work immediately.
8 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Throughout these four hours, voters arrived at my polling location consistently. I was assigned the task of printing out access codes for voters to use to access an electronic booth to vote. After six hours of working, I was finally able to take an hour break to rest and eat something before returning to work.
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.: For lunch, I made my way over to an unoccupied cafeteria and ate a sandwich that I had packed the night before. Shortly after, a fellow volunteer sat next to me and we spent the entire hour talking about school and what I plan to study in college. Since the volunteer is already in college, he shared his experience of how different college is to high school. The hour soon flew by and we were both back at it, helping voters.
1 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Starting at 1 p.m. a stream of voters flooded my polling location since this is the time where most workers go on their lunch break and use this time to vote. We had a line stretching outside the door and worked twice as fast to ensure that every voter was happy with their voting experience that day.
5 p.m. – 9 p.m.: This time period was without a doubt the most stressful one out of my entire day. We received the largest number of voters in the evening. There were times when the line to enter the polls wrapped completely around the entire school. It was stressful due to the growing impatience of voters who were dealing with the slow process of casting a ballot. But the polls closed at 8 p.m. and the last voter left soon after.
9 p.m-midnight: After the polls closed, the other volunteers and I had to tear down the entire polling location. When I arrived home at around 9:30 p.m., I had to complete my homework and ended up falling asleep by midnight.
Although working as a volunteer for more than 12 hours was borderline unbearable and tiring on my foot, I’m glad I was able to have this experience since I gained a vast amount of knowledge that I could use when I am legally allowed to vote. If you ever have the chance to volunteer as a poll worker for an election, I seriously recommend being part of the political process.
It was definitely rewarding.
This story was originally published on Grizzly Gazette on November 26, 2018.