Connestee Falls News
Last updated 10/29/2020 at 9:19am
When I took on the "job" of writing this column I set out to do two things:
1.To share the good works of my fellow Connestee Falls residents (a huge shout out to them for all the incredible work they do,) and
2.To take you on my journey as I get to know this little piece of heaven we call home.
Like you, most of these last seven months have been spent in quarantine, but despite that I still feel blessed to have been able to explore our beautiful trails and enjoy the splendor of the mountains. I was able to paddle down several sections of the French Broad River, play lots of Pickleball, and I am now marveling at the tapestry of colors that only fall could paint.
But being that this is an election year, I decided that my next adventure would take on the form of a Transylvania County Board of Elections poll worker during the early voting period and on Election Day.
Having worked for Miami-Dade County government where there are 1.54 million registered voters versus the 26,000 here, my previous elections experience included scandal (remember the hanging chads of the 2000 election?), problems communicating (Miami is a melting pot of diversity and languages), and dealing with impatient and frustrated voters who were tired of the long lines in the hot sun.
I am happy to report that my experience here was nothing like that – it was extremely professional, personal, and a whole lot of fun! What I found amongst my fellow poll workers was a deep sense of pride and willingness to deliver a five-star customer service experience to every voter who walked through the door.
Poll workers are temporary staff, but under the direction of Transylvania County Board of Elections Director Jeff Storey and Deputy Director of Voter Administration Laura Owen, we felt like we were an important and valuable member of their team, and a part of something bigger than ourselves.
"Poll workers are a crucial element to running a successful election. We couldn't vote without having individuals who are trained and willing to participate in ensuring the election is run smoothly, accurately, and fair," Storey said. "Poll workers are generally recommended by each local party chair and appointed by the five member bipartisan elections board to serve a two-year term. We can also utilize unaffiliated voters with board approval."
Poll worker responsibilities include: greeting voters, traffic line control, check-in, ballot distribution, machine assistant (my personal favorite), tabulation box attendant, curbside assistant – to help those voters who are unable to physically come in to the building – assignments, which made the six-hour shift fly by.
With COVID-19 a concern for in-person voting, the Board of Elections has put in safeguards like managing social distancing protocols, offering free hand sanitizer, single-use pens and personal protective equipment, plus frequent cleaning to make voters feel safe and comfortable. So, there's no excuse not to vote!
I am so grateful to the voters who showed kindness and patience to me while waiting in line, and I am especially thankful that our local officials and administration made the 2020 elections a priority.
Storey said it best: "We are truly fortunate to live in a county that provides the support needed to conduct the elections. Our county commissioners have provided us with a great facility and equipment that ensures all Transylvania County voters have a voice. Our bipartisan board members and staff all share the same goal to have fair and accurate elections. We have a great community of citizens who like to be involved and contribute to the election process. I enjoy the accomplishment of running elections with a team that, regardless of party affiliation, is civil, respectful of others, and dedicated to ensuring we provide a great experience for all voters in the county!"
Working the polls connected me to the democratic process in a far deeper way than I ever felt before. I was so much more invested in this civic privilege that it got me thinking about how voting rights have changed over these last 233 years.
I am grateful that you no longer need to be a 21-year-old white male landowner to be able to vote. Our country's only requirements are that you must be a citizen of the United States, at least 18 years old by the date of the general election, and a resident of the state where you are voting. These advancements were made possible by those before us who fought for equal voting rights. I am able to vote because of the women (and men) who fought during the Women's Suffrage movement, and I celebrate them on what is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Every election is important. Your vote is important because you are important, and I hope that you make it a priority to vote. If you have already cast your ballot via absentee or early voting, which runs through Oct. 31, thank you. If not, I hope you vote at your precinct on Election Day, Nov. 3, and think upon Susan B. Anthony's words, "Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it."