LeAnn White | Lac du Flambeau, WI
I am a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and I am a United States citizen. That means I vote in my tribal elections as well as Lac du Flambeau town elections, Vilas County elections, Wisconsin State elections, U.S. Congressional elections, and Presidential elections. Voting is important to me.
The Lac du Flambeau reservation is located inside Vilas County. The town of Lac du Flambeau lies within the reservation boundaries. There are two governments: The Lac du Flambeau Tribe and the Town of Lac du Flambeau. It is a unique structure to say the least. The reservation resembles a checkerboard, a term used after the Allotment Act where tribal land was purchased at very low prices by non-Natives.
I began as an election inspector, I learned the basic steps by working with an experienced inspector. During every election, I would observe the other inspectors, the chief inspector, and the voter registration table. I was interested in learning more about the chief inspector role. It seemed easy enough. I was excited to learn more and take on a bigger role, so I took the training in 2018 and became the Chief Inspector for the Town of Lac du Flambeau in April of 2020. Now I work with the town clerk to oversee the entire Election Day process. I want to ensure that the election is open, fair, and safe for everyone. We need to work as a team.
Each polling place is set up differently, it depends on the layout of the space. In my polling location, we have tables for voter registration, voter check-in, receiving ballots, voting booths and the ballot machine.
Being a poll worker is important to me because I want Lac du Flambeau tribal members to see a friendly face when they come to vote. They are coming into a space that has not always been welcoming. They did not have the right to vote until 1948. It makes me feel good to see Lac du Flambeau Tribal members coming to vote and also registering to vote.
After the 2020 election the Wisconsin Election Commission required our polling place to do a recount. We were the polling place in Vilas County that had to do a recount, I believe it was because of the heavy Native American population. How the recount works is we count each ballot by hand. There were four of us that worked from 10:00 AM until 7:00 PM and an observer came to oversee our process. We recounted the ballots four times and we got the same result each time.
There is a check and balance process to counting votes. When people come in on Election Day, they sign the poll book, I give them a number, they take the number over to a different table, the ladies there will take the number and then give them a ballot. The absentee ballots that arrived before Election Day also have a check and balance process. Each absentee ballot is assigned a number and recorded in the poll book. The envelopes are not opened until it’s time to put them into the tabulator machine and then two people are assigned to handle absentee ballots. Let’s say there were 30 absentee ballots, before one is inserted into the ballot machine tabulator we announce, ‘Inserting absentee ballots.’ I make a note in my inspector’s statement that at 11:00 AM we inserted 30 absentee ballots. We make the announcement so everyone is aware of our process because we don’t want anyone to think we are just inserting ballots.
I want everyone that comes to our polling location to feel comfortable and at ease. If I know their name, I greet them by name. I know I would feel more comfortable entering a space and being greeted by name. The building seems intimidating and when you walk inside it’s quiet. That is intimidating too. Voting is important because it is part of an entire system that affects us all. I’m especially happy to see new voters, like the 18-year-olds.
I’ve been the chief inspector for several years now and I understand the process and what to do. The challenging part for me is when someone isn’t able to register to vote. Sometimes somebody comes to register on Election Day and they don’t have the proper documentation, whether it’s a utility bill or the proper ID. They’re frustrated because they don’t have time to go get the documentation and come back by the time the polls close, which means they can’t vote.
When people I know come to sign in they’ll say, ‘well, you already know who I am.’ And I have to tell them, ‘I do know who you are, but I need you to tell me your name and address.’ It is a requirement for every voter to state their name and address.
One of my most memorable times as a poll worker was during the 2020 spring election. There were five tribal members working that day. I don’t think there were ever that many tribal members working an election at the Town Hall in Lac du Flambeau. It really made me feel good to work with my fellow tribal members.
LeAnn’s story is produced by Carol Amour and 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.
More you may like
Jen Rubin, Love Wisconsin Producer (and sometime Poll Worker), talks with LeAnn about being a Poll Worker in Lac du Flambeau.