PA Primary Election Judge and Karen

 

There have been many excellent posts about the dubious integrity of the 2020 election which resulted in the installation of the current pResident.  There also has been a call to arms, to do more than simply write about our anger and frustration with the obvious corruption.  I heard that call.

Three weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Republican Committee put on a poll-watching seminar, which I attended, with the intent of being a poll watcher.  It was very informative, including the history of the last 40 years of Republicans being banned from observing the polls.  One item of information that I also learned from the seminar, was that Allegheny County (greater Pittsburgh) was short over 700 workers for the election. These positions are typically staffed last minute by county and government employees who are conveniently given Election Day off.  It was suggested that the demographics of Pittsburgh government employees are almost exclusively liberal Democrats, which meant that the people working the polls would typically be all liberal Democrats.  This underscored the importance of having poll watchers, and perhaps even poll workers.

A week after attending the seminar, I received a follow-up email from the Republican Committee informing me how to sign up with a candidate to be assigned a role as a poll watcher.  The email also had a link to the Allegheny County Elections board, where you could apply to be a poll worker.  I clicked on the link and filled it out, leaving the position applied for blank.

Last Wednesday, six days before the primary, I received an email saying I was appointed Judge of Elections for a local polling station.  On Friday night, I watched an online training course on how to be a Judge of Elections, and the responsibilities.  Saturday morning, I picked up my election materials, including the ballots, keys to the voting scanners, and end-of-night seals that needed to be affixed to the returning votes, and machines.

I arrived at the polling place at 6:05 a.m., and found a crew already setting up tables.  The Minority Judge administered the oath to me, and I in turn read the oath to the team.  This was not a solemn, heart-throbbing moment.  While we all took the job seriously, I did add a line into the oath, which prompted one of the team to ask “was that really in there?”. I responded: No, I added the “there will be no shenanigans at our poll”. They approved.

My assigned poll is a tiny rural location, we had received 190 Democrat ballots (which were labeled “Democratic Ballots”) and 90 Republican ballots, we also received 50 generic blank ballots which could be used for either party in a machine called an Express Vote. This was a touch screen device that allowed you to vote for either party, and printed your selections to be scanned.

Our team was comprised of very fine people. A very elderly lady, with decades of Clerk experience, very thorough, very detail-oriented, very slow, very sweet.  The Majority Inspector was an efficient, fun, pragmatic woman who cared.  The Minority Judge also had vast experience, and was the “Equipment Team”.  He got everything set up. Finally, our Constable was a character. She told stories that would have embarrassed the Marines and she knew virtually every guy that walked in.  Many got hugs, about a dozen received strategically located “I Voted” stickers in places that might offend and invite harassment charges if they were not such good, lifelong friends.

Around 3 p.m. we ran out of Republican ballots, and started directing all Republicans to use the Express voting machine. At that time, we had used approximately 40 Democrat ballots, and all 90 of the Republican ballots.

The Express machine jammed for the second voter.  As Judge of Elections, I called the Technical Assistance phone number to request support in resolving the jam.  This phone call took 10+ minutes or so, the majority of the time was the first operator very slowly taking our polling place information and names, before she transferred me to a tech, who almost instantly resolved the glitch.

In the meantime, a queue of six to eight Republican voters had formed, waiting for the single Express voting machine.

Immediately after my phone call with the tech, I called the Election Ballot Support phone number and asked for delivery of additional Republican ballots.  I was informed our polling station would be restocked.

I walked up to the registration table and informed the two clerks, and constable that we would be restocked with Republican ballots.  The Majority Inspector exclaimed, “Yeah, we are getting more Republican ballots”.  At that time there was a woman signing in to vote, who had requested a Democrat ballot. One of the ladies at the table (I think it was the Constable) said, “Republicans have to wait in line, but the others can vote right away” (because we had a significant stock of Democrat paper ballots and six vacant cardboard privacy booths.)  I walked back towards the scanner machine and the express voting machine and heard no other comments.

The female Democrat voter took offense to the statements above, voted, then she and her husband, an independent who opted to not declare a party and did not vote, informed the clerks at the registration table that they wanted to file a formal complaint for harassment and voter intimidation.

I was called over, and the husband requested that I, the majority inspector, and his wife talk outside the polling place.

Both the husband and wife were visibly irritated and upset.  They contended that the situation was oppressive and intimidating, as the wife was the only Democrat, with “all those Republicans there”.  The wife was particularly upset “by being “othered” She claimed it was discriminatory and insulting for one of the ladies (I think it was our Constable, but it might have been either of the other ladies.)  to say the “Republicans have to wait in line while the others can vote right away”.  She stated it was offensive that the word others was used instead of Democrats.  She also thought it was intimidation for the Majority Inspector to be excited that more Republican ballots would be delivered. She thought that was cheering on the Republicans.

I listened to the complaint.  Acknowledged that she perceived that there was intimidation, and assured her that I had worked with the team all day, and that we all were just so glad that people were voting, and were supportive of all voters.  We, as a team, were concerned about running out of ballots, and were happy to learn that additional supplies were going to be delivered, but that wasn’t because of party affiliation or cheering on one side over the other.  The Majority Inspector even announced that she was a registered Democrat too.

After our discussion, the wife appeared to have calmed down, the husband maintained a level of irritation and anger.  I asked if the wife wanted a hug, she agreed and we hugged and she thanked me.

In the end, the husband still requested the names of the three ladies at the registration table, and a copy of a complaint form.  This was provided.

The official complaint form requires a notarized statement.  I am unsure if the couple will file the complaint.  The wife seemed like she was done, the husband was pushing the issue.  I reported the incident via phone to the Elections HQ and wrote a synopsis to be filed in case a complaint is logged in.

At the end of the night, we sealed up all the documents, machines, affixed the numbered seals to each of the locked compartments, and I delivered the paper ballots and the thumb drives to the elections HQ.

Other observations:  There was a substantial list of absentee voters (mail-in ballots) the majority (75%+) of those were Democrat voters. Five Democrats came in and requested to change their party to Republican.  Two Democrat voters used the Democrat ballot, but asked for a Republican sample ballot so they could write in the names of Republican candidates that they preferred.  I called the Election HQ, and asked if these write-in votes for the other party would count, and was informed they would.

At the end of the night the team told me that if I am Judge again for the November election, they would all gladly return.

My observations: there certainly were no shenanigans at our polling place.  If shenanigans occurred, it could have happened in the mail-in ballots, through ballot harvesting.  The system used in our polling place created both a digital and paper trail so results can be audited.

I will be back in November.

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  1. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Interesting the disparity in ballots provided vs the voter ratio.

    I’ve been wondering if some districts have been making it more difficult to vote on purpose. Do you think your ballot ratios where a hindrance?

    • #1
  2. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Nohaaj: The Express machine jammed for the second voter.

    You know, I’ve never had a #2 pencil jam . . .

    • #2
  3. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Stina (View Comment):

    Interesting the disparity in ballots provided vs the voter ratio.

    I’ve been wondering if some districts have been making it more difficult to vote on purpose. Do you think your ballot ratios where a hindrance?

    The replacement ballots showed up at 7:30PM, 30 minutes before the polls closed. Only one person balked and didn’t vote because of the time delay the “express machine” caused. 

    When I returned the ballots (voted and blank) to the election center that night, shortage of Republican ballots was a very common complaint.  Obviously, they had more ballots, we received 90 more at 7:30PM.   Our final in-person vote count was something like 136 Republicans and 62 Democrats.  The official poll book reflected around 850 registered voters eligible to vote (those who voted by mail were not in the book) The book gave a total number but did not break out the totals by party.

    • #3
  4. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stad (View Comment):

    Nohaaj: The Express machine jammed for the second voter.

    You know, I’ve never had a #2 pencil jam . . .

    It’s delicious on wheat bread.

    • #4
  5. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I remember being an election judge at a Republican primary one year. The Democrat primary was being held in the room next to mine. Mine was closer to the door, so a lot ot Democrats came in wanting to vote in the Democrat primary .(Presumably because their reading skills encompassed short one-syllable four-letter words like “Vote Here,” but multisyllable words like “Republican Primary” were beyond their ken.) I would then tell them “You can’t vote in the Democrat’s primary here. This is the Republican primary. Go next door.”

    Well, one Karen had speech comprehension problems as well as reading comprehension issues. She started screeching that paper said the Democrat primary was in the building, that she was going to vote in the Democrat primary, and stormed out claiming I was trying to suppress her vote. 

    Soon after that a police officer arrived. Apparently she had filed a criminal complaint. Just as he came up to me another Democrat came in and asked to vote in the Democrat primary. As with every other Democrat I said, “You can’t vote in the Democrat’s primary here. This is the Republican primary. Go next door.”

    As the man left, I turned to the officer and asked, “Are you here to vote? This is the Republican primary.” He explained, no. He was investigating a complaint that I was turning away Democrat voters. I explained I was, indeed, turning away Democrats, because the Democrat primary voting was held in a different location, and that if they insisted on voting in this room, they could not vote in the Democrat primary. They had to go next door. 

    He laughed, and agreed I had done the right thing. Case closed, I guess. She probably filed a complaint with the state election commission against the League City PD for not investigating properly.

    • #5
  6. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    I appreciate you doing this and reporting on this.  I really don’t want to believe that our elections are irreparably corrupt beyond the big Dem cities and personal accounts like this help to assuage my fears.  

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I’m very concerned about how easily people assume that they are being put upon. What is wrong with these people? Do they want to be able to brag about how badly they were treated at the polls, that the Republicans must have been responsible, and how they weren’t going to take any guff? Get a life, people. …

    • #7
  8. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    This is a great post, I had tears in my eyes reading it.

    It has a bigger scope than my own post.  Of your and my posts, yours is the more deserving of being elevated to the Main Feed.

    I strongly ask that you allow it to be elevated to the Main Feed.

    • #8
  9. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    This is a great post, I had tears in my eyes reading it. It really needs to be elevated to the Main Feed. I strongly ask that you allow it to be elevated to the Main Feed.

    I will consider that Gary, I would feel compelled to take out the location and real life names of the team members. 

    • #9
  10. AMD Texas Member
    AMD Texas
    @DarinJohnson

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    I remember being an election judge at a Republican primary one year. The Democrat primary was being held in the room next to mine. Mine was closer to the door, so a lot ot Democrats came in wanting to vote in the Democrat primary .(Presumably because their reading skills encompassed short one-syllable four-letter words like “Vote Here,” but multisyllable words like “Republican Primary” were beyond their ken.) I would then tell them “You can’t vote in the Democrat’s primary here. This is the Republican primary. Go next door.”

    Well, one Karen had speech comprehension problems as well as reading comprehension issues. She started screeching that paper said the Democrat primary was in the building, that she was going to vote in the Democrat primary, and stormed out claiming I was trying to suppress her vote.

    Soon after that a police officer arrived. Apparently she had filed a criminal complaint. Just as he came up to me another Democrat came in and asked to vote in the Democrat primary. As with every other Democrat I said, “You can’t vote in the Democrat’s primary here. This is the Republican primary. Go next door.”

    As the man left, I turned to the officer and asked, “Are you here to vote? This is the Republican primary.” He explained, no. He was investigating a complaint that I was turning away Democrat voters. I explained I was, indeed, turning away Democrats, because the Democrat primary voting was held in a different location, and that if they insisted on voting in this room, they could not vote in the Democrat primary. They had to go next door.

    He laughed, and agreed I had done the right thing. Case closed, I guess. She probably filed a complaint with the state election commission against the League City PD for not investigating properly.

    Was that League City, Texas? I’ve voted in a lot of primaries in Texas and the voting for both parties was always in the same room. You just asked for your particular party’s ballot. 

    • #10
  11. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    AMD Texas (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    I remember being an election judge at a Republican primary one year. The Democrat primary was being held in the room next to mine. Mine was closer to the door, so a lot ot Democrats came in wanting to vote in the Democrat primary .(Presumably because their reading skills encompassed short one-syllable four-letter words like “Vote Here,” but multisyllable words like “Republican Primary” were beyond their ken.) I would then tell them “You can’t vote in the Democrat’s primary here. This is the Republican primary. Go next door.”

    Well, one Karen had speech comprehension problems as well as reading comprehension issues. She started screeching that paper said the Democrat primary was in the building, that she was going to vote in the Democrat primary, and stormed out claiming I was trying to suppress her vote.

    Soon after that a police officer arrived. Apparently she had filed a criminal complaint. Just as he came up to me another Democrat came in and asked to vote in the Democrat primary. As with every other Democrat I said, “You can’t vote in the Democrat’s primary here. This is the Republican primary. Go next door.”

    As the man left, I turned to the officer and asked, “Are you here to vote? This is the Republican primary.” He explained, no. He was investigating a complaint that I was turning away Democrat voters. I explained I was, indeed, turning away Democrats, because the Democrat primary voting was held in a different location, and that if they insisted on voting in this room, they could not vote in the Democrat primary. They had to go next door.

    He laughed, and agreed I had done the right thing. Case closed, I guess. She probably filed a complaint with the state election commission against the League City PD for not investigating properly.

    Was that League City, Texas? I’ve voted in a lot of primaries in Texas and the voting for both parties was always in the same room. You just asked for your particular party’s ballot.

    Yup. And this was years ago. I’m thinking 2003-05. We were still using paper ballots, and voting by precincts, not county-wide. That was why the parties had separate polling places.

    Kids today have it easy.  In the 1990s as election judge I had to sign every stinking ballot personally for them to be valid. 

    • #11
  12. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    This is a great post, I had tears in my eyes reading it. It really needs to be elevated to the Main Feed. I strongly ask that you allow it to be elevated to the Main Feed.

    I will consider that Gary, I would feel compelled to take out the location and real life names of the team members.

    edited to remove personal info, and marked it for possible elevation. Now Like It! 

    • #12
  13. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I’m very concerned about how easily people assume that they are being put upon. What is wrong with these people? Do they want to be able to brag about how badly they were treated at the polls, that the Republicans must have been responsible, and how they weren’t going to take any guff? Get a life, people. …

    This was my reaction too, Susan. It must be so exhausting to go through life on such a hair-trigger all the time.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Charlotte (View Comment):
    This was my reaction too, Susan. It must be so exhausting to go through life on such a hair-trigger all the time.

    At one point in my life I was much more reactive and anxious; it’s a terrible way to live. So many people were a threat and life filled me with fear. I took steps to “lower the temperature,” and life became a blessing instead of a curse!

    • #14
  15. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):
    This was my reaction too, Susan. It must be so exhausting to go through life on such a hair-trigger all the time.

    At one point in my life I was much more reactive and anxious; it’s a terrible way to live. So many people were a threat and life fillled me with fear. I took steps to “lower the temperature,” and life became a blessing instead of a curse!

    When I run into people like that I comfort myself with the thought that I only have to live with them for a few hours and they have to live with themselves 24/7.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    When I run into people like that I comfort myself with the thought that I only have to live with them for a few hours and they have to live with themselves 24/7.

    Nowadays they have the same effect on me, too! Let me outta here!

    • #16
  17. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    If the number of preprinted ballots is determined the same way there as here in Idaho, it’s based on historical voting numbers and percentages for similar elections in that precinct (e.g., primaries, off-year, presidential, local only…).  If there’s a hot race or issue, turnover in the population, or a shift in party affiliations, the guesstimates may be wrong.  Had this happen one time when I was working the polls here, and had to fall back on the electronic ballot machine for a while, but the roving district judge was on the case and got us more printed ballots pretty quick.  At least in our case, the #2 pencil wouldn’t have worked because the electronic ballot machine is loaded with blank, but serialized, paper that has to have information added to determine which ballot to generate.  I’m guessing it’s the same at your place.

    This year the wife and I did not work the polls for the first time in a number of years.  They’d added some new gadget that required retraining and we just didn’t have the time.  Did get to see it in action, though, at our local precinct:  Instead of paper printout of registrations in a binder, plus a list of late arriving mail ballots, they’ve got the database live on a tablet.  No more pawing through and tearing computer listings, and no backup of voters waiting for that to happen.  Worked well, and we’ll probably get the new training in time to work in November.

    • #17
  18. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    What a great activity you motivated yourself to be part of.

    Thank you.

    We get our country one polling place at a time.

    And by  manning up at the polling places at election time, in whatever capacity we push for.

    The report you offered is hopeful.The details you included made it possible to picture what it was like at your polling place.

    I do need to ask: what is the situation in PA regarding ballot drop boxes? Those abominations are already installed here in No California for the June 7th primary.

     

    • #18
  19. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Interesting to have different rooms for the polling places, according to party. Here in Washington state, an issue around party affiliation arose in the 2020 presidential primary election. Our voter registration does not require any party affiliation.

    Washington for years has voted exclusively by mail. A primary ballot for both parties was mailed to every registered voter. To vote, you selected and marked the party’s ballot of your choice. The party to which the primary ballot pertained was identified by a color strip along an edge of the ballot.

    Complaints began as soon as people discovered that once the ballot was inserted into the return envelope, an opening in the envelope revealed the party color strip.

    Thus, the workers receiving the envelopes could, without opening them, instantly discern whether it contained a Democrat ballot or a Republican one. It made it quicker and easier to sort the ballots by party before validation.

    But the rub was that to validate one’s ballot, one also had to add one’s signature and date to the outside of the envelope. Thus, it became theoretically possible to connect the name with the party. People objected that it violated the secrecy of their ballots, and various theories of nefarious intent floated around. Some folks were concerned they’d be open to harrassment if their name were connected to the Republican ballot, because it could be taken as a sign of support for Donald Trump, and given the vitriol in that season, they didn’t want the attention. For some, it was enough to “suppress” their vote, and they skipped the primary.

    • #19
  20. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    One other casual observation regarding masking:  currently there are no requirements to wear masks.  It appeared to me that only Democrats wore masks. My WAG estimate is that 20+% of the Democrats wore masks.  This was fairly consistent regardless of age. One young mother brought her two children in, all three wore masks.   In a bit of Kabucki theater,  my Majority Inspector,  also a Democrat (as I subsequently learned) did not wear a mask unless the voter did,  then she would put a mask on while that voter remained in front of her. 

    • #20
  21. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):
    This was my reaction too, Susan. It must be so exhausting to go through life on such a hair-trigger all the time.

    At one point in my life I was much more reactive and anxious; it’s a terrible way to live. So many people were a threat and life fillled me with fear. I took steps to “lower the temperature,” and life became a blessing instead of a curse!

    When I run into people like that I comfort myself with the thought that I only have to live with them for a few hours and they have to live with themselves 24/7.

    Yes, long ago I realized that the worst punishment many people will face – at least in this life – is having to be themselves.

    • #21
  22. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):
    This was my reaction too, Susan. It must be so exhausting to go through life on such a hair-trigger all the time.

    At one point in my life I was much more reactive and anxious; it’s a terrible way to live. So many people were a threat and life filled me with fear. I took steps to “lower the temperature,” and life became a blessing instead of a curse

    Probably most  folks acting in that way are normal but if you only listen to main stream media news you get a picture of evil, cross, dishonest Republicans that are attacking the country.  Folks with no substantive background, or exposure to other people, believe what they’re told.  I think we have to fix it, but don’t  have a clue how.

    • #22
  23. RyanFalcone Member
    RyanFalcone
    @RyanFalcone

    When I first bought my home in an inner-city Pittsburgh neighborhood, my next door neighbor worked the polls. She was a Republican. She and the other Republicans at our polling place were very politically knowledgeable and vocal. Our little neighborhood was heavy Italian and probably 45/55 Republican as opposed to the much more extreme far left Democrat precincts in the city. I heard all kinds of awful stories. She always came back at the end of the day frazzled and/or in tears needing someone to talk to. Myself and another Republican neighbor were there for her. 

    It always seemed like Democrats were very organized and intentional about creating chaos and intimidation at the precinct. In the first Obama election, vans were showing up with loads of college-aged kids that nobody had ever seen before. Our precinct is about 20 blocks of tiny houses crammed against one another. Everyone at least recognizes the other “locals” and most of us know each other. She asked for an ID and a lawyer in the van was called in and verbally threatened her and everyone else in the facility until total chaos ensued. By the end of the day, she said there were dozens of provisional ballots filled out by these odd folks that appeared from the vans. She said she left sobbing but was in a rage by the time she reached her back gate to decompress from all the stress. All the poll workers were friends but something happened that day. Dems and Reps became much more Balkanized. She really started hating all Democrats. Most of the close-nit friendships among those folks died that day.

    • #23
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