Jubie Simonson | Waldwick, WI
Every four years, there’s a cookie-baking competition among the spouses of presidential candidates. Back in 2000, Tipper Gore offered a molasses cookie and Laurie Bush won with a blend of chocolate chip, oatmeal, coconut, nut cookie. I made them and they are so good. I always make at least three cookie options for the election.
I was first a poll worker in the late 1970’s, I lived in Darlington and my mom was a poll worker. There must have been a poll worker shortage one time and she asked if I would do it. I enjoyed being a poll worker, it was fun. I moved to Waldwick and waited until I was retired to become a poll worker again. My family has always been involved in civic duty. Initially I hadn’t looked at being a poll worker as carrying on that responsibility, but it is. Now I am the chief inspector for our township, which means I am responsible for the compliance and integrity of voting on election day.
We only have one voting location, with two different wards. As the chief inspector, I make sure that election procedures are followed as well as procedures for absentee ballots. Municipal clerks are responsible for distributing and collecting absentee ballots using USPS. In 2016 I saw how well poll workers and municipal clerks do. After the election, Jill Stein from the Green Party filed for a recount and I observed the recount. We went through the actual votes, not just the vote tally on the machine. Every single tape from the machine was checked and every single ballot was recounted. The numbers lined up perfectly. This gave me a great deal of confidence in the integrity of the voting machines.
Because we are such a small township, between all the poll workers, we know everybody by name who comes in to vote. But, even if we are related to a voter, we need to ask for everyone’s ID. On occasion, someone forgets to bring their ID and we send them home to get it. When this happens, people get upset with us, because we do know who there are. But that is the law. We also have some people that would stay all day if we’d let them. Perhaps they may be lonely and come in to visit and vote and get their cookie. We may also be a connection with the outside world. I really love when we have our 18-year-old first-time voters. Kids frequently ask us to take a picture of them getting their ballot or getting their “I Voted” sticker. It warms my heart to know that young people are that excited, that voting feels that momentous. And they like cookies too.
I’ve been a bit anxious about poll watchers coming into our small space and watching throughout the day and evening. The media talked of “trouble with poll watchers” but it didn’t happen in 2020 and our town clerk doesn’t anticipate it happening this election. We continue to have better than average voting percentages. More people have registered to vote, now over 325 if I recall correctly, and I anticipate we will register a few more on election day. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no questions about the integrity of our election process in our township or our county. Statewide, no evidence of fraud has been found, other than a few where felons voted who couldn’t and several who voted in the wrong polling place. I believe that number is fewer than 25 across the state and nothing that would have changed the outcome of any election locally or statewide.
I think that because we treat every voter as if we didn’t know them and require that they show proof of identity – even our spouses, children, and next-door neighbors – that no one questions whether the election officials don’t comply with the laws. We’ve had some angry voters who come in without a driver’s license or other qualifying identification, and we won’t let them vote, despite each of us knowing him or her personally and we send them away without voting. Most often, they return with identification and it doesn’t happen again.
I absolutely love being the chief inspector – I’m not afraid, though I was a bit concerned in 2020 about outsiders maybe coming in every polling place in Wisconsin to closely watch and interact with voters. It didn’t happen and I think our township is much too insignificant to bother with. It’s still a gathering for friends and neighbors, visiting, checking up with one another, checking on the new calves (spring) and harvesting (fall), and catching a cookie on the way out.
I am a firm believer that an informed, involved electorate is the key to democracy. I just firmly believe that I don’t need to like your politics, I think it’s important to vote.
Jubie’s story was produced by Jen Rubin and 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.
Jen Rubin, Love Wisconsin Producer (and sometime Poll Worker), talks with Jubie about being a Poll Worker in Waldwick, WI.