Ask the presiding judge (election)

Tomorrow, I will be my precinct’s presiding judge for the May 4 primary election in Ohio.

I have run into lots of questions from various people about what actually goes into either working elections or being a presiding judge, so I thought there might be a little bit of interest from the Dope.

This will be my second election, first time as a presiding judge. Today, I will go down to the Board of Elections and pick up the election machines and other equipment. (I will also be picking up the material for my sister’s precinct. She is also a presiding judge, and I am allowed to pick it up for both of us.)

This evening at 6, we will set up the machines at a locked location in a local school. Tomorrow, we will be assembling at 6 am, and will not be done until around 9 pm, so it’s definitely a marathon of a day, and I will be the youngest person on the premises who isn’t a student (and I’m 39!)

So, anyone have any questions? This might be the most boring “Ask the…” thread in history.

What made you decide to take on this tremendous responsibility?

I salute you!

In 2008, before the primary, I called the BoE and asked if they needed any additional help and the head said they didn’t need a Democrat, but they needed a Republican and did I know anyone? I volunteered my sister who was a registered Republican though she hadn’t voted Republican in years and was actually planning on voting Dem in the primary. That didn’t matter for the purposes of an election, so she was immediately snatched up. Two elections passed and then the BoE was looking for Democrats and my sister volunteered me, thereby getting her revenge!

My brother is also working the polls in Ohio. He said he was the youngest person in the training room by at least 40 years.

Do you actually need an ID to vote? Is there a limit to the number of challenges a party can make? In other words, can someone challenge every single person they think is of the other party?

Do you have party registration in Ohio, so they can actually see how you’ve declared yourself?

And how much do you earn as an election judge?

Yes, you need an ID to vote. There are a number of acceptable IDs, including Ohio drivers license with current address, utility bill with current address, etc.

If someone shows up without an ID, they can vote a provisional ballot. Then they have 10 days to go to the Board of Elections with a valid ID to have their vote counted.
Party registration:

Yes, we have party registration in Ohio. In the signature poll book, we will see whatever the ballot was you chose the last time you voted in a primary. If you have never voted in a primary, or if all the primary voting you’ve done was outside of the Democratic/Republican parties, then you can choose any ballot. If you are a Democratic/Republican voter and you want to vote minor party, you can with no issue.

If, however, you voted the Democratic ballot in 2008 and you want the Republican ballot in 2010 (or vice versa), we are required to have you sign and date Form 10-W that says you are basically voting in good faith and are a legitimate Republican voter. If you refused to fill that out, you could vote provisionally. Honestly, my paperwork doesn’t explain what would happen at that point.

Last election, I made $108, I think. I wasn’t a presiding judge, but my sister was. I think she made maybe 10 dollars more than I did.

I lied. I made $116.50 last time. Whee.

Are people generally happy and nice when they are voting, or crabby and mean?

Most people are pretty nice. Some of them act like we’re about to steal their IDs or are otherwise committing some sort of fraud by wanting to copy down information. We’ve been warned that lots of people get offended about primaries–being asked for the party they are choosing to vote, being asked to sign Form 10W, etc. They don’t accept, or want to accept, that you don’t get to vote in all the primaries, just one party’s, so they have to choose.

Are you going to vote in this election?

I’ve been an Ohio voter since 1984, and I commend you for your public service. What’s the average age of your fellow poll workers? As a group, are they roughly reflective of the demographics of your community? In my NE Ohio neck o’ the woods, there is a higher percentage of black pollworkers than in the community at large, and the average age is significantly higher.

It depends. I intended to go down before the election, but I was out of town and today I forgot (even though I was RIGHT THERE). So, if I get a chance tomorrow I will, but I might not get that chance since I end up working in another town than I live.
The age of the pollworkers is quite high. I’d say the average age is 60.

They make it so difficult to be a pollworker that I’m not surprised it skews old. We have to be there for at least 14 hours dealing with a sometimes cranky public. It’s exhausting.

From your prior experience, did you have a steady trickle (or a thin trickle, for that matter) of people all day long, or two or three big rushes during the day with nothing in between? Or some other pattern altogether? And if you did have large amounts of dead time, how did you spend it?

Well, a “big” rush for us would be a thin trickle for most of the country! We do generally have a line when we open (at 6:30), and will get a rush at lunchtime and after 5, but it’s nothing overwhelming.

There’s generally someone voting, but not necessarily more than one during the slower times.

For the most part, we just end up talking. There’s isn’t much else to do. We’ll take turns having lunch or taking walks around the building, but there’s a whole lot of nothin’ else to do.

Do you ever get anyone with a campaign button or T-shirt who refuses to take it off or cover it up, or is otherwise ornery?

I’ve never had to call anyone on a campaign button or shirt. I got called on it in 2008 when I went to vote. I forgot I was wearing an Obama shirt. Oops.