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Over 60...and Getting Younger: September 24, 2010

The Election Inspector

Yes, I am an election inspector.

Every primary election and on the first Tuesday in November I do my patriotic duty. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the polling place by 5 a.m. is the most unpleasant part of my duty. Sitting at the desk until 9 p.m. this year was particularly profound.

The old beautiful khaki machines were put to rest. They were retired after a century of extraordinary service. Pulling down those multiple handles gave the voter a sense of pride and accomplishment. They were also very difficult to dabble with.

The new machines, sleek and technological, were a challenge to both the electorate and the poll watchers. Filling in a bunch of ovals with a pen does not give equal satisfaction.

We, the inspectors, took a detailed course in the operation of the newfangled contrivance. The inspectors all had fears of errors and multiple mistakes but the darned things were quite good. The voters took to the new technology readily.

Let me list a few of the duties of an election inspector. The device must be plugged in. The machines old and new must be checked to see that all numbers on the back are set to zero. The khaki machines had a curtain but the newer ones had a smaller open-ended privacy booth. Each inspector, both Democrat and Republican, sitting at the table, must initial each signature and verify each vote. Because of the 16-hour day, one hour is set aside for lunch and dinner. You must find time during the day for your own vote.

I forgot to tell you that “no electioneering” signs must be posted 100 feet from the polling place. No reporters or cameramen are allowed on the premises. Parents may take small children into the privacy booth. No bosses may help their employees.

We inspectors may assist people who ask for help but we can’t pull levers or fill in the ovals.

When 9 p.m. arrives we lock the doors. All voters still in the area can vote. The old machines needed a flashlight to read the results. The new machines just regurgitate a tape with all the tallied results.

The director of the table places all tapes and keys into a suitcase and carries it to the local police precinct.

At about 9:30 p.m. all is done and we can go home.

It was a satisfying day. We read the results on the next day. On to the next election!