Ballots Saved from the Trash, a Tale of Civic Pride

Did you notice the article in Saturday’s paper about the county
urgently needing election workers? Might I encourage you to
participate?
Did you notice the article in Saturday’s paper about the county urgently needing election workers? Might I encourage you to participate? I’m firmly convinced that all voters should perform this civic service at least once in their voting lifetime. Hopefully, you’ll be better at it than I was and will have wonderful memories to prove it.

I saw a similar press release years ago and decided it was my patriotic turn to respond. It wasn’t the VERY small financial stipend but the idea of experiencing an election from the other side of the table that intrigued me.

The training information came in the mail as well as an election day assignment. To my chagrin, I’d been assigned to Morgan Hill (not Gilroy as requested) and our polling site only had three workers. Since I was a novice, I hoped that the other two public servants were veterans and able to fill the void.

Training day arrived.

“How can they spend so much time teaching us to do things that just require a little common sense?” I muttered while instructors tediously taught details.

I didn’t meet the woman in charge of our site until we went to set up our precinct. She was a polling virgin, too, but seemed extremely mature and capable. So far, it appeared the day would be a piece of cake.

Our third partner sauntered in on election day at 8:30am with a bag of donuts, coffee and no tardy slip. “Not a good sign!,” I thought correctly.

Contrary to our training, only 70 percent of our voters were either in the right precinct, had the right credentials or didn’t mess up a ballot. What had seemed so poignantly simple in training, quickly became annoyingly confusing. We had to: get signatures in the exact right place, use the right color envelope for boo-boos and another color for out-of-precinct votes and try to get a real person on the phone when someone did something we weren’t trained to handle.

Lunch time arrived. The Boss Lady took her hour and returned promptly. I didn’t have any pressing chores and came back early.

When our third partner left at 2-ish, he was gone for three hours. We’d just decided that Mr. Invisible wasn’t coming back and had created a plan for the two of us to handle the site alone when he shuffled back in and silently took a seat. Just in the nick of time, too! Things were pretty hectic the last couple of hours.

Finally, 12 hours after we’d opened for business, we were legally able to close our doors.

The Boss Lady started balancing the books. I was anxious to call it a day and started cleaning and collapsing booths.

Shortly after my “can we be done now” drill, our fearless leader looked up with a paler than usual face.

“I can’t find the ballot stubs anywhere,” she said. “They’re our proof that each ballot has been accounted for. We’ve got to have them to reconcile.”

“What do they look like?” Mr. Invisible asked.

She showed us a sample and my heart sank. I knew immediately where they were. I’d thrown them into the trash while clearing off the table.

With red face, I quickly confessed my misdeed and in unison, we turned toward the filled-to-the-brim garbage can.

“I threw them away, I’ll have to find them,” I said rolling up my sleeves.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s when Mr. Invisible earned his pennies. Without any accusations or incriminations, he came to the trash barrel with me to wade through the small mountain of trash.

Albeit not in the cleanest condition, we found all the stub booklets and saved the ballots in our not-so-respectable precinct.

I haven’t been back to a polling site since. I now perform my public service by NOT volunteering to serve and have become a permanent mail-in voter.

Last weekend, I sat at my desk and filled out my ballot while dressed in my housecoat and slippers. Later in the day I took it to the mail box. No guilt, no mess, no waiting in line. No one’s vote but mine to account for.

Now that I’ve impressed you with my civic professionalism, stay tuned. Next week I’ll tell you how I voted on this year’s candidates and measures.

Bonnie Evans has lived in Gilroy with her husband Mike for 21 years. They have two grown children and a black lab named Pepper. Her volunteer work centers around end-of-life issues. To support her volunteer efforts, she teaches for Gilroy Unified.

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