Editor’s Note: This article was written for Forbes by SAE staff member Spencer Long [Central Michigan ’08]. The original can be viewed here.
A fitness instructor, an author, a pastor, a web developer, a higher education professional, and two high school juniors walk into a polling place. What sounds like the start of a cheesy joke was far from that for me serving as an Election Judge in the November 2020 Presidential Election. This was actually the make-up of the group of individuals I had the honor and pleasure to serve with as an Election Judge.
In August, I registered to serve as a first-time election judge. I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially amid a global pandemic, but after completing the required training, I felt a little more comfortable about the experience. What still wasn’t clear was what the day would look like. Much to my surprise, I was blown away by the opportunity. I hope that many of you will consider serving as an election judge in the future.
What was the experience like? Serving as an election judge started the day before election day. Our team, who had never met, came together the night before the election to take inventory of the equipment that was delivered from the Board of Elections. After ensuring everything arrived, we developed a plan for the next day and went home for the night. The following day, we started at 5:00 AM, which mostly involved finishing our precinct set up for the day. Our poll opened at 6:00 AM and the rest of the day seemed like a blur until we closed the poll that evening at 7:00 PM. After the poll closed, we packed everything and completed the end of the day paperwork. The physical ballots were then returned to the processing site by two of us, and then our duties were over.
What made the experience so impactful? The fellow election judges I had the honor to serve with. I was inspired and shocked by the genuine passion and care each of these individuals brought with them. Although we represented both Republicans and Democrats, we soon learned that we were all neighbors, many of us living on the same street. Ultimately, each of us valued the electoral process. We simply clicked as a team. No one cared how old someone was or what they did professionally; everyone chipped in by making sure our precinct had a successful day. Even more enjoyable was getting to know each of them over the course of the day.
What did I learn? No matter how contentious an election may become, everyone still has to vote, and that right to vote was well respected regardless of one’s political affiliation. I learned that people still care about one another, and the election process still works. I was surprised by the respect each voter had throughout the day and their genuine thankfulness for our work as Election Judges so that they could cast their votes. Food was even brought to us through the generosity of the community. Just when I thought bipartisanship was out the window, Election 2020 was a good reminder that neighbors could come together and make things happen.
My pitch for future elections, please explore and consider serving as an election judge. The entire process was easy and fulfilling. Although the day was long, the company was great, and at the end of the day, I felt rewarded for the time spent serving the community in this way. Don’t forget several elections outside of the Presidential and Midterm Elections also need folks to step up and serve as an election judge.