Wilson Towne | Sheboygan, WI
A lot of people get kind of stuck in the left or right. We have to save the country this way or we have to save the country that way. I’m like, “well, how about we just let the country work. Let people choose and just support the basic civic institution of voting.”
One thing I have realized is that there are people who cannot deal with bureaucracy. I feel like I am sort of a guide for them. The biggest complaint I get from people is it’s just too complicated. They don’t know how to get registered. They are frustrated because they were told incorrect things earlier. They don’t even know what candidates are running. It’s pretty easy to find out so I just tell them, “Hey, go to this easy website, https://myvote.wi.gov/. It will tell you whether you’re registered. If you’re not, we’ll figure it out. We’ll work through it together.” On a big election day we could have up to 30 people waiting to vote or register to vote at a single time. So it’s sort of a triage. You have to figure out how to deal with people all at once and make sure they have a positive experience. We are here to help you make your vote count, that is the main thing.
It is frustrating for me sometimes. I had my least favorite interaction and most favorite interaction within 20 minutes of each other. I was registering someone to vote and really coaxing him through it. You need to show me proof of where you live right now, it has to be a bill or something. Then you need to show me proof that you are who you say you are, a photo ID. After we went through this process, he said, “Wow, that was so easy. How do you stop the illegals from registering?” As if he had expected everyone would have to jump through hoops of fire to earn the right to vote. About 20 minutes later I had a young married couple bring their citizen naturalization papers in a folder. It had pictures of them with the relevant government information in front of an American flag. It was so exciting to me to register people that were new citizens and just wanted to be part of this.
I know that I am an unusual demographic for a poll worker in my city. In my neck of the woods in Sheboygan the average age is at least 60 plus for poll workers. If young people don’t start doing this, there is going to be a major crisis. I am working on trying to get high school students that are in civics classes to join. So I’ve reached out to local high school teachers that are civics teachers asking them if they have any students who might want to be a poll worker. Part of our role is to make sure every single vote gets counted. It is such an easy way of just showing up and serving your country.
Wilson’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.