Riley Smith '23 went to a polling location for the first time... and stayed for 17 hours.
To be fair, Smith really just wanted to make some extra cash. At least, that's how it started. Earlier this year, she had joined a Facebook group for her town of Greenville, New York, and in late summer, there was a post seeking poll workers for election day. There would be two paid trainings and of course, election day itself. All in, Smith could clear about $250. She signed up. And then it became about more than money.
Smith got to her polling location at 5:30 in the morning. At least one Democratic and one Republican representative had to be present to open the polls. By 6:00 AM, when the polling place opened, there was already a line wrapped around the building. Smith was in awe of the line, the patriotism, and her new role in the process. She checked in voters on the new electric pads, made calls and issued affidavits when necessary. She spoiled ballots that were filled out incorrectly and issued a second chance, by letter of the law. For 17 hours, she made sure every registered voter who showed up - more than 1,500 of them - properly exercised the right and responsibility to cast their ballot.
Smith was told not to discuss politics with the other poll workers - that's so voters don't overhear conversations that could sway their vote. Republicans and Democrats work the tables together, not to influence the election, but to defend it. Every one of the workers was courteous and friendly, and most of the voters as well. Smith could count on one hand the voters who refused to wear masks or insisted on making a scene.
Smith did need to skip a class to complete her shift and was a bit leery asking for the time off. But when she did, her professor responded with...
"Thank you for your service."
"As someone who worked at the polls for over 17 hours, I have a lot of respect for poll workers. A lot of them were 40 years my senior. Some stayed days after the election to make sure that everyone’s vote is counted, as it should be. I think everyone I worked with did a great job.
The overall experience was wonderful. I was so excited to not only work the polls, but to vote for the first time. I had a rush of adrenaline in the booth. And then so many people in my family were proud of me for working that day. A lot of people didn’t want to because of the tension surrounding this election. I'm glad I stepped up.
It was a long and busy day, but exciting. I'm looking forward to doing it again."
Riley Smith '23