Marline Holmes | Beloit, WI
I don’t actually work in the polling place; I am part of a team in a room at City Hall that processes absentee ballots. Our city clerk does a great job organizing the election, and the absentee ballots are sorted by ward and alphabetically, which saves us an immense amount of time. We check that each one is signed correctly and witnessed correctly. Then we open each envelope and check to see that the ballot was filled out correctly and then put it in the voting machine. At a polling precinct, if someone makes an extraneous mark on their ballot, or makes too big a circle when picking a candidate, so the voting machine rejects it, they can fill out a new ballot. That can’t happen with an absentee ballot – so that’s where our team comes in.
There are often some ballots that we have to remake. Mostly they come from nursing homes, where people are not always that good at filling in the circles. It is a straightforward process. First, we put the ballot through the ballot tabulator to see whether it can be read. If yes, then great, your vote is counted. If not, then we need to remake the ballot. Everyone in the room looks at the ballot to see what the intent was of the voter. It almost always is that someone scribbled too far around the circle or made an incidental pen mark on the ballot, so who they intended to vote for is clear. We record that we’ve remade a ballot and put it in the incident report. Then two poll workers sign as witnesses.
There is a lot of camaraderie with our little team sitting in a small conference room counting absentee ballots. The first year we didn’t know each other but we were all committed to doing the job efficiently and correctly. After a couple of elections, we were looking forward to working together again and hoped that we would be assigned the same team.
I like being a poll worker. It is a way to help in the community. Being a poll worker is very apolitical, it’s not a political stance on any issue other than our right to vote and help that process run as smoothly as possible. To me it feels like an all hands-on deck approach to our democracy. Everybody does their part.
–Marline Holmes | Beloit, WI
Marline’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.