I Volunteered as an Election Canvasser; Here is How it’s going

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First off, I would like to clear up this title a little bit. “Volunteer” does not feel like the entirely correct term. While it certainly feels like your regular, grueling, drudging, volunteer work, it is actually a paid position, and a reasonably well paid one at that.

So if you’re like me, and are struggling to find work in the greatest economy America has ever seen, and are equally concerned about the rampant fraud of mail-in ballots, consider doing yourself and your country a favor and “volunteer” at your local polling station.

Secondly, the job of election canvasser is not the same as the more commonly cited election judge or chief judge. An election judge is someone who administrates polling stations and goes through about a week of training weeks prior to the election in order to keep you from doing things like messing up your ballot, voting twice, or creating a super spreader event by refusing to wear a mask. A chief judge, usually someone more experienced, is the person who is called when these things do happen. They usually call the police.

An election canvasser, the way it has been explained to me, is a position that has been relatively vague in the past. It usually consists of a group of ten to twenty people who come in the week of the election to help count the absentee and provisional ballots. Administrators have said that back in March they were still preparing voting machines, and when the shutdowns began they quickly had to come up with a whole new system. So recently they increased the number of people to thirty to forty during the mail-in ballot primary in July (the first time the county held an almost all mail-in election) instead of bringing in election judges, while also having to totally reorganize their warehouse to accommodate for the new counting process. With the amount of time they were given to prepare for the general election, it is very impressive how smoothly everything has been operating. The ballots are pouring in but there is rarely a moment of being overwhelmed.

For the general election, because of the nightmare election week (month? year?) is predicted to be, things are operating very differently. The county has hired around 40 canvassers, including myself, that began training on September 28th. They have also trained a number of us as election judges to provide field support at the in-person polling stations. Because Anne Arundel County is now doing both mail-in and in-person voting, they are also running the regular process of hiring and training election judges. Administrators can often be heard saying that it is like they are running two general elections at once. 

After our canvasser boot camp, we immediately started counting and processing ballots, and have been since October 1st. We were the first state to start doing so (here’s a WBALTV article about that. If you look carefully you can see a broke, 24-year-old hack reporter pretending to do anything at all in the background) and given the amount of time it is taking, it is rather alarming that some states cannot begin counting until November 3rd.

Since then, we have been working roughly 12 hour days, 6 days a week, looking like Veruca Salt’s Wonka Bar opening assembly line. Twice a day, ballots arrive from the county drop boxes and the USPS and are sorted, checked in, examined for errors, and eventually ran through the polling machine. 

I have now worked every step of the process, and have walked ballots from drop boxes to the voting machine, and believe it would be beneficial to answer some FAQs that I receive and often see in the media.

Whats the difference between a mail-in and absentee ballot?

There is none, expect for the context the same ballot is being used for. In the days before the apocalypse, if anyone still remembers, ballots were mailed out to those who were unable to vote in-person and requested them. Now that same system has been expanded for all registered voters. It is certainly strange that the president constantly cries foul over the use of mail-ins but defends absentee, when both require applications and are reviewed and accepted through the same systems. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that he has voted absentee in at least three elections.

Should I bring my ballot to the dropbox or send it through the post office?

Bring it to your closest dropbox. The USPS does not pick these ballots up, Canvassers, like myself, do. We then bring them directly to the Board of Elections building to be counted and processed. This way you are cutting out the middle man and avoiding any complications that may arise from the postal service. You might as well be bringing the ballot there yourself. 

Are the Dropboxes secure?

Absolutely. Each drop box has two keyed padlocks on them, plus red tamper-tape placed over the door. There are cameras set up at each location, and when the ballots are picked up by the BOE, they are placed in a lockbox with two locks, which are turned then sealed with zip ties until brought into the BOE building.

Also, there is a padlock on the face of the dropbox that seems to be confusing people. The slip to drop your ballot through is open 24/7 until after election day. Slip it through the hole above the padlock.

How will I know my ballot has been received?

You should receive an email within 48 hours after dropping your ballot off in the dropbox. For those who mailed in, it will be within 48 hours after the BOE has received your ballot from the USPS. If you do not receive an email, you can double-check the status of your application here. If you are concerned it has been lost, call the BOE and see if they can sort it out. If they still can’t find it, you can still vote in person provisionally, which of course is still counted.

How can I prevent errors on my ballot?

  • Make sure you send it in with your own name on the envelope. Not your spouse’s name, not your son’s name, not your sister’s name. If you print out your envelope, make sure it is yours. The signature, tracking ID, and printed name on the envelope all must match or the ballot will be sent to the boar for review and may not be counted.
  • Make sure you seal the entire ballot INSIDE of the envelope. Fold it 3 times to make it fit. It must not obstruct the privacy seal.
  • Make sure you follow directions and do not leave marks or stains anywhere there are not supposed to be. You can only vote for one president if you want your vote to count. 
  • Make sure your ballot is actually in the envelope

I want to vote in person. Which polling station should I go to?

For early voting, there are seven centers open, and you can vote at any one of them.

https://www.elections.maryland.gov/elections/2020/index.html#vote_in_person

On election day you are able to attend any voting center in your county:

https://www.elections.maryland.gov/voting/absentee.html

Can I still volunteer?

The recruiting process is pretty much over, but there are concerns that people will bail last minute because of health concerns or just general unpredictably. If you are still interested you can fill out a form here, or give the Board of Elections a call and see what you can do.

Will there be law enforcement at polling stations?

Ever since law enforcement cattle prodded and blunged African Americans trying to vote in Selma back in 1965, having law enforcement at voting booths has been generally understood as voter intimidation. So even though people are concerned about voter fraud and potential confrontation on election day, no police will be stationed there. If anything does occur they will have to be called.

Andrew Reed, will you manipulate the election?

Even if a person wanted to – which no one does – there certainly is never an opportunity. When you pick up ballots, check them for errors, duplicate them, and run them for through the machines, you are not only on camera the entire time, but are required to be paired with someone from a different political affiliation. Your job is to double-check each other, and you sign your name every step of the way, so if something fishy is going on they have you on camera and you put your name next to whatever problem you’ve caused. 

Other tools:

Anne Arundel County just passed 40,000 mail in ballots last week, but here you can check how the state is doing compared to 2016: https://electproject.github.io/Early-Vote-2020G/index.html

The State Board of Elections is an excellent resource that you should explore, but here are some of the major points:

Was your ballot received? :

https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch

Some more FAQs:

https://www.capitalgazette.com/politics/ac-cn-anne-arundel-voting-faq-20200922-20201005-tv3tfluzlfcndkrdxtaxly3dx4-story.html

https://www.elections.maryland.gov/voting/absentee.html

https://www.elections.maryland.gov/voting/provisional_voting.html

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