Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rockin' the Vote in Oregon


Through the magic of Blogger, I am able to show you this video of me doing what I was doing at the exact time I was doing it, which was even before this video became available to show you. How cool is that!

Huh? Let me explain. As I write this, it's November 25, three weeks after today's post. Today is Election Day, and I am employed as a temp worker by my county election board. I am sitting at one of two dozen tables in a large room. There are three people at each table, and our job is to unstuff the ballot envelopes that have arrived at the election board and been wanded in, signature-checked, and sorted by precinct. Because Oregon has mail-in voting rather than local polling places, there is a ballot envelope for every voter. That's a lot of envelopes that have to be emptied!

Inside the ballot envelope, which has the voter's signature on the back of it, there is another envelope, the secrecy envelope. The actual ballot is sealed inside of the secrecy envelope, and it will not be opened until all the secrecy envelopes for the precinct have been removed from the signature envelopes, and the signature envelopes have been bundled and removed from the table. Thus the integrity of ballot secrecy is maintained.

At each table, each of these steps in the process are performed by all three workers at the same time. The workers have been assigned to a table based upon their own political party declarations. No table has three people from the same party. These are safeguards that help assure the integrity of the election.

Next the ballots are removed from the secrecy envelopes. Those envelopes are also bundled and removed from the table. All envelope bundles are marked with the table number, the precinct number, and the batch number.

The next step is to unfold the ballots. In this election, each 17" ballot has four horizontal fold lines, making the unfolding process pretty tedious! Once unfolded, the ballots must be stacked so they all faced the same direction, and the creases must be backfolded to flatten the ballots, the better to send them through the counting machines.

Not done yet! Next the markings on each ballot must be visually inspected to be sure of their machine readability. Any ballot with erasures, White-Out, stray marks, or double votes (such as voting both "yes" and "no" on the same measure) must be separated from the machine-countable ballots for further manual attention by a separate group of workers.

Finally, the prepared stack of ballots is put into a box and marked with the table number, the precinct number, and the batch number. The non-machinable ballots are counted and put in a separate large envelope and also identified by table number, precinct number, and batch number. This elaborate paper trail not only ensures the integrity of the election but also facilitates a recount, in the event that becomes necessary.

In my county, we unstuffed envelopes on the day shift Thursday, Friday, and Monday. On Election Day... oh yeah, that's "today"... we started at 2 p.m. and will work through the night until we're done. I suspect I'll be getting home at 5:02 a.m. ;-)

So... am I in the movie? Yes, I am. Watch for the candy-striped pole in the middle of the room. I'm to the left of it, wearing a white sleeveless top. In the two stills below, that's my head immediately above the white triangle in the center of the pictures.

So, uh... you recognized me right away, huh?