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I served in several capacities in the 2021 VA election. I volunteered as a poll-watcher with the Republican Party of VA. I took a shift observing the opening of absentee / mail-in ballots. And I served in a non-partisan capacity as an election officer at a precinct in Arlington County. There are requirements in VA law for election officers of different parties to perform certain tasks “when practicable”, so this is a basis for the RP of VA to push for the assignment of token Republicans into these non-partisan slots — that helps. You come from the party, but work for the county, not for the party.
Overall, things were good, and the only actual problems I saw were minor, and were matters of ignorance rather than malice — near as I could tell.
The core requirement for a poll-watcher (technically referred to as an “Authorized Representative” of a party, or as an independent) is to be able to “see and hear” the proceedings. Early in the process, a couple of election officers wanted me to stand here or sit there, and I politely countered that if I did so, I would be unable to see and hear what was going on, and so I was highly reluctant to stand or sit where told. I stressed that I understood the spacing requirements and the desire to not have voters feel crushed or too watched, but that I was going to have to get my job done. Gosh, maybe if we moved this table a couple of feet, then there would be a great space for me to operate from. But I still need to see the scanning machine whenever I want, and to be able to hear when questions and concerns were raised by voters at the poll pads (checking in), or at the chief’s desk.
I had a great working relationship with the people at the precinct where I worked. This started with the Chief, from when I showed up and presented my credentials, to the last moments as I was invited into a lessons learned conversation. The chief was careful to make sure that I got what I needed, and she had no objections when I said that I wanted to watch various set-ups and teardowns, and see the tape myself, etc… I was careful to be as polite and accommodating as possible without ceding my requirements. It paid off. I wanted to not only observe, but to serve as an ambassador from the Republican Party. I was there to observe, not to accuse. Bad attitudes produce bad results. I got great results with my great attitude! Still, the people I worked with seemed all on the up and up (don’t they always?), and I had a good time doing good things.
At one point I directly intervened in a voter issue — the operator of a check-in station was about to flush a voter right out the door when all that was needed was an affidavit. It was this pollbook operator’s first day on that job, and the chief and deputy chief were busy. I had become quite knowledgeable about the whole process and all of its variations through my poll-watcher work. So I just stepped in and said that all the voter needed was an affidavit, a “gold form”. Then I reported my intransigence to the chief, who thanked me and said I did the right thing. Heck I knew that, but I’m glad the chief saw it that way.
The electronic pollbooks seem to be well-done, and actually made my job more successful. Electronic systems are not our threat vector. Instead, it is the mail-in ballot issue. There is a lot that is right with the process, with fairly strong controls to discourage dual voting, including the aforementioned “gold form”, in which you explicitly sign up for felony charges if you don’t fly right. I was able to observe a session of mail-in ballot opening, but there is a lot that is still behind the scenes. There is an initial validation which is carried out in a different room, where envelopes (not ballots) are examined for several criteria. Those envelopes will be categorized “Valid” or “Needs cure”, or if there is no longer time for a cure, “Rejected”. That’s the process I thought I was going to observe. I wound up observing the next step, in which the envelopes are actually opened, ballots separated, and the two piles never see each other going forward. Again, the people doing this use the electronic pollbooks, and have a two-person, verbal validation of the name and address from outer to inner envelope, and from inner envelope to entry in the pollbook. It’s relatively robust, and I will provide my recommendations for improvement to the Party People.
Finally, I served as an election officer on election day. We rotated jobs, so at one point I did everything except the Chief role, which suits me fine. This was at a different location than my earlier observer work, so it was not the same crew I had come to know. Which also suited me fine. I was the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. I worked the pollbooks, checking people in to vote, I handed ballots to the people coming from Check-in, I helped people to self-scan their ballots, I directed foot traffic, I stood outside and greeted/informed people, I monitored the VA DEMS people who are thicker than flies at every site.
I set up equipment and broke it down, helped figure totals, and I read the tapes from the machine tallying EVERYTHING and recording results into our final report. So I was the first person in my precinct to know how the vote had gone. SPOILER, in Arlington the RP got its poop re-positioned. I observed the sealing of boxes, envelopes, and bags, I escorted all of the materials to the County Courthouse complex, and I helped hand all the sealed stuff to a person whom I knew to be the right official.
I signed all the tapes and half of the seals. Interestingly, we did not count the paper ballots. The machine said that we had a certain number, and we were not required to certify that number of paper ballots. Instead, we certified that every paper ballot present in the machine was in the box now under seal. That much I do know. Just the same, when I solicited signatures for the big seal on the box, I played as the host of “Who Wants to Catch a Felony Charge?” You? You? Sign right here.
You cannot get much more involved than that unless you serve as chief, or go knocking on doors. I did not go door-to-door. I know some people who did, and they were beat down, so I really appreciate their work.
Some of the people doing the jobs at either of the sites I worked are too comfortable with certain things. Nothing specific, but some folks have a kind of smug, smarmy, frankly democrat attitude. One person was fairly insistent about maintaining a certain position. Well everybody else rotated. That’s a RED LIGHT for fraud right there. Or maybe just laziness. The Chief should have fixed this.
Regarding Arlington losing by a wide margin, that’s fine. We lost by a smaller margin than last time, and this phenomenon repeated probably in all of Virginia’s blue precincts. With no electoral college, these slightly-less-bad losses get to accumulate into a win even if the red precincts hadn’t picked up a single vote. But I suspect that they did as well.
The VA DEMs have an awesome ground game. They have a table or a booth at every avenue of approach to every entrance of every precinct polling location. They have supervisors who drive around replenishing supplies and donuts and coffee. They hand out “Democrat Sample Ballots” which are the real ballot more or less, but printed on blue paper, and lacking the bar codes and such. They hand these out and only the most staunch resist. Overwhelming majorites of voters came to the polls carrying their blue cheat sheets. The Republicans have the exact same thing, but I only saw two people handing them out — ever — and both of those people were ON THE BALLOT. So RP VA gets a huge F for ground game. Well, the RP cannot mobilize a workforce that doesn’t show up. And despite how involved I have been in this election — I did not vote down ballot, because the smaller races are not party marked. That’s right, all I filled in was G, LG, AG, (something else too?) and of course NO on all of the tax and spend horsepoop. Gee, would have been nice to have a red cheat sheet.
RECOMMENDATION #0: Contact your local or state Republican Party and ask how you can help. It wouldn’t hurt to let them know that you’re furious at the limp-wristed SOBs who have sold us out, and that you’re here to help change that. Nobody said volunteering was submission. It’s assertion, and you can always walk away at any time. You’re volunteering on your terms — not theirs. However, there are laws which are not flexible, and the organization will know better than you do where your efforts might be most helpful.Published in