Eloisa Gómez | Milwaukee, WI
Many years ago I volunteered as a poll worker and liked doing it. But then I became a mom and worked full time, so I stopped. Two years ago I retired and had more time, so I signed up again. I also joined the League of Women Voters and helped form The Comité por el Voto Latino (Latinx Voter Outreach Team). When I learned that the City of Milwaukee Election Commission needed bilingual poll workers, I knew I would be needed.
I want the Latino community to feel that they are an important part of the electoral process. One reason I am a bilingual poll worker is that I want my community to know that their city supports them in voting. Showing up as a bilingual poll worker shows that we want your voice heard in the election, that your voice needs to be heard. My main role on election day is to be a receiver, which means I sit at the table with the poll book. Receivers are the poll workers that ask voters to provide proof of identity before being given a ballot. As a bilingual poll worker, I have additional responsibility. If anyone needs help with translation I am there to help do that.
One of my most heartfelt memories as a poll worker happened during the election this past February. It was a very cold, and windy night and almost 8:00 PM. Five minutes before the polls closed a young woman who was Latina walked in with two young children. I remember thinking to myself that she probably worked a full day then had to feed her family before bundling up her kids to get to the polls on time. She probably had a better excuse than most people not to vote that day, but she took the time and energy to do it. Whoever she is, she is still in my heart. For many of us it can be hard to make the time in our day to vote, but she cared enough about her vote and our democracy, and managed to get herself and her children to the polls in time.
I have noticed over the past two years that it is mostly young people that need to register on election day. This is something they could easily have done in a matter of minutes online but instead they sometimes need to wait in line to do so. During the April election there were only five voting places open in the entire city of Milwaukee due to Covid-19 and the lack of poll workers. Again, I noticed that the majority of the people in line to register that day were younger people, and that stayed in my mind. It informs me as a person who’s volunteering with the League of Women Voters that much more education is needed so everyone knows how easy it is to register in advance of Election Day.
I don’t feel any differently than I did at 18—I still feel that my voice matters. It concerns me when I think of people who feel like their voice doesn’t matter, because it does. Collectively there’s a power we have as citizens that I think is just not fully understood. .
Eloisa’s story is part of Love Wisconsin’s Poll Worker series. Through this series we want to draw back the curtain on who makes our elections possible and introduce you to a few of the unsung heroes of the democratic process.
What exactly does a Poll Worker do? Poll Workers facilitate the right to vote and maintain order at the polls. They ensure that our elections are open, fair, impartial, and trusted. The Wisconsin Elections and Ethics Commission has a list of Frequently Asked Questions to describe the duties and qualifications to be a Poll Worker.
Regular people from neighborhoods around the state volunteer to be Poll Workers. If you are interested in being a Poll Worker you sign up through your municipal clerk. Here is a list and contact information for Wisconsin’s municipal clerks.