By Benjamin Aubrey
On November 2, 2020, one day before the 2020 General Election, I arrived at the precinct I have worked at before, the Royal Palm Beach Library. For context, I was called by the Precinct Clerk to ask if I could assist with setting up the polling room to help save time for activating the machinery on Election Day. I happily accepted, and I arrived by 11:25 A.M. Originally, I was told we would most likely be finished by an hour, but when I arrived, it would not be the case. The Precinct Clerk explained the room was used for Poll Worker Training Sessions throughout the early election time. They held a session the other day, and never cleaned up after themselves. So before we could set up our equipment, all of us tasked ourselves with unplugging and packing up the training EVID tablets in their respective cases and shuffling them throughout the room, keeping the training equipment separate from the Voting Day equipment.
Once we completed this, we had to dismantle and move around the library’s tables, with some help from the library staff. Once that was finished, all of us contributed to opening out our election ‘cabinet’ and began setting up our own EVID machines and began setting up some of the tables in the most optimal set-up we could create. This involved moving tables and setting up privacy booths, as well as moving the Ballot Scanners to their respective positions. Halfway through, we had an assistant from the Supervisor of Elections office finally arrive at our precinct to discuss the situation. At some point, while the rest of us were continuing to set the room up and move training equipment out of the room, there was a heated argument regarding the training equipment and how the room should be set up. By the end of the day, we were all able to set up the room before Election Day. The process took about two hours, maybe a little more.
On November 3, 2020, I woke up around 4:30 AM to get ready for the big day. For the State of Florida, and for the millions of Americans who still needed to do so, it was time to vote on Election Day. I arrived at Precinct 6118, the Royal Palm Beach Library, at 5:25 A.M. The others trickled in around the same time or a couple of minutes after, and we took our oaths while signing in our attendance sheets and pay sheets for the day. Since the room was set up yesterday, the VST Technician only had to power on the equipment, sync up the EVIDs, get the papers organized, and set up the election signs around the perimeter. For this election, we had three extra poll workers who were new to this line of work, and were part of sanitation, helping with cleaning the plexiglass and privacy booths. For the half-hour beforehand, we mostly lounged around, trying to wake ourselves up and mentally get ready for whatever came our way today. Throughout the entire day, all of us wore masks and made sure the booths were spaced out enough. By 7:00 A.M., the polls at our precinct, and across the country, opened up; Election Day had begun.
The first hour was filled with a rush of early voters, a few who apparently were waiting in line between 6:00 and 6:30. I was assigned to my original spot of checking in voters and making sure they were registered to vote, making sure the voter’s photo ID matches the voter, and making sure the voters were at the correct precinct. In our local area of Royal Palm Beach, there were about four neighboring precincts a few miles away, so unless voters double checked they were at the correct polling place, it could be easy for someone unprepared to get their location incorrect. When this happened, we printed out a small receipt-like paper with the precinct number and instructions, along with the ballot type for the poll workers at the correct location to get ready. An hour passed by, and the rush ended. For the majority of the day, it was a small, steady trickle of voters. This was primarily due to the fact many voters either turned in their Vote by Mail ballots or arrived in person for Early Voting at the many Early Voting locations. It was said (but it should be fact-checked later on the SOE website) that about 80% of all eligible voters who could vote in our precinct voted before Election Day. We were also told (again, must be fact-checked to confirm) that the number of voters in the entire State of Florida who voted early one way or another matched the total amount of people who voted back in the 2016 election, before Election Day. This did not prevent a few voters from asking about their Vote by Mail ballots. I could at least sympathize with one concern regarding if the ballot was processed yet. These voters submitted their Vote by Mail ballots early, whether through the Postal Service or at a dropbox, and when they checked their status online up to Election Day, the SOE website said they had possession of their ballot but did not process it yet. Fortunately, at least on my end, they did process my ballot, and I am sure the other voters’ ballots would have been processed by the time I am writing my memoirs (November 7, 2020).
Since we had a surplus of poll workers for Election Day, we did not shift our assignments as often as others have done during Early Voting or during the Midterm Elections. This caused the day to drag on for extended periods of time. But when we did rotate, it was a breath of fresh air. For myself, I was rotated to assist with distributing ballots to the voters. It was my first time doing this, so I asked what I had to do, and simply put, I was to show the voter I was putting the two page ballot in the secrecy sleeve, explain how to bubble in the options, explain there were two sides for both pages, and then remind the voter that he or she must insert the ballot into the VST Machine, where the VST Technician would be on standby to assist the voter if needed. During my time distributing ballots, I learned that in order to maintain the integrity of the system, I was not allowed to have the two pages of the ballots stacked individually together, so that the voter can see both pages, which had to be separate on the table, to be combined together and to show the two combined pages to be placed in the privacy sleeve.
Besides these events, nothing else significantly changed, if at all, during the 2020 General Election. We had a mini rush between 5:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M., which was when the polls closed, ending the 2020 Election, besides the Vote by Mail Ballots being counted back at the SOE Headquarters. This time there were no technical difficulties when closing the polls and submitting the election results from our precinct to HQ. However, we did not leave until 8:30 P.M. due to trying to properly close down and fit everything back into the election cabinet, as well as making sure the Clerk had all of the papers assembled together for the SOE to collect later. Overall, the 2020 Election was a success, and we did our part to help voters exercise their Right to Vote.