If I were to be asked again to work as a Voting Clerk, or Officer, at polling station in the next provincial election, I would do it again, in a heartbeat. Last night, or more appropriately, all day yesterday, was an experience that will stand out for me for the rest of my life. Apart from the super long day, 7:00am until 9:00pm, working in the polling station was an awesome experience.
The best part of working in the polling station were the people that came out to vote. If you are a people person, then working the voting booth and table is a job that will put you in the front line, and face to face with members of your community. I worked as a Voting Clerk, so my job was to greet the people as they came up to the table, and I would verify if they were on the voter’s list for the electoral area that we represented. Once I found them, or got their information updated, then they moved over to my partner (Voting Officer) where they would received their ballot to mark, and then place in the ballot box.
Our day started one hour before the doors opened. Right at 7:00am, we had to set everything up. The location was the local high school gymnasium here in town. We had six voting stations inside, plus a “Absentee Voting Station.” There was also a table set up for information and primary verification for voter’s who needed information, or their paperwork verified. We also had to set everything up at our table so that it met with the rules set out with the Election Act. There is a bit of paperwork, such as envelopes, and supplies, like the ballots, and voter’s names list and so on, but once we got going it all fell into place.
8:00am when the doors open you are greeted with a serge of voters. Our table was lucky in that we did not get our first voter until ten minutes after, but the crowd at that time was mostly at the Absentee Voting Station (AVS) table. I felt sorry at first for the two people working at the AVS, but then learned that time really flew for these guys. Getting our first voter was (for me) like walking on eggshells. We had a lot of preparation work to do before hand, so I was worried and I did not want to make any mistakes. I went through the process very carefully with the first few voters, and it seemed like I spent an eternity with each one. Soon, I developed a rhythm, and I could easily whisk each person over to the Voter Officer to receive their ballot.
Voters arrive in waves, or small groups at intermittent times of the day. Yes, we had our “quiet” periods. We did have a couple of times where we had a line up at our table. Mostly we would get groups of three or four voters arriving at the same time to vote. I also had a couple of cases where I really had to work to get the voter’s information up-to-date so that they would be able to vote. These cases are “time vampires,” and I felt sorry for the people who were next in line waiting. I am happy that most people have patients and understanding of the process, and everyone that I met were great. I think the smile, and saying, “thank you for coming out to vote,’ makes a real difference.
The voter turnout varied from table to table at our location. We had roughly over sixty percent, while the next table over to us had less than forty percent. This to me is shocking that British Columbia has such a low voter turnout overall. I think (according to what I heard on CBCnews today) that voter turnout was slightly higher than what it was last election, something around fifty percent province wide.
Closing is the exciting part. Both the Voting Clerk and Voting Officer have very specific duties when counting the ballots. There are also people (Scrutineers) who are not part of Elections BC, that watch to make sure that the ballot boxes are empty, and witness to confirm ballots that are spoiled, or rejected. Once the doors close at 8:00pm sharp, we start the count. My partner handles the ballots, and I mark them on a tally sheet. I also have to make sure that the number of ballots matches the number of voter’s signatures on the voting list. If we are out, then the process is a nightmare, but fortunately we were 100 percent with all of our counts and we balanced!
A little while after 8:00pm our supervisor phoned in the result from our voting station, and then we started packing up the tables and chairs. We sealed up all of the documents and ballots to be shipped off to Election BC Headquarters, and said our farewells to everyone.
Remember that during this whole time none of us had any idea of the election result(s) until we got back to our homes. So hearing the results was truly a surprise for me.
Yes, we had our excitement too. The fire alarm went off in the school, so we had to evacuate, as a precaution, for less than an hour. Voter’s were arriving, and we started taking voters while outside on the lawn in front of the school in Fort Langley. I think we were the first polling station to have had this happen during an election. Anyway, with the fire alarm going in the background, we were accepting voters, and they got to cast their ballots while enjoying the brief periods of sunshine through the clouds. I was happy that it was not raining at that time.
So, yes, I would do it all over again! It was an awesome experience.