Elections, elections, elections | #2

In the spirit of the Fourth of July, I thought I would talk about the insane amount of work that goes into running an election smoothly and efficiently. My internship with the Clerk’s Office focuses on the upcoming elections in August and November in the state of Michigan, and there is an INSANE amount of effort that goes into meeting deadlines, programming the machines, and making sure that everyone has the chance to vote.

I had no idea what to expect before I started my internship, but I knew it was going to be a lot of work. The biggest thing I was tasked with was accepting and filing absentee voter applications and then sending out the ballots to the appropriate person. However, there was a snag. The voter file program that had been used for years was now obsolete because a new program took its place. Everyone in the Clerk’s Office was wrestling with this program, either because there were multiple bugs in the system or because we just didn’t know how to use it correctly.

In order to learn how to work in this new system, the other two interns and I had to attend a day-long training session. We drove all the way to Flint to attend a session put on by the state. As soon as we walked in, it was clear to see that we were the youngest people in the room. Not only that, but I was the only non-white attendee. The day started out slow as most of us were taking in the information on how to work the new program. After 6 hours of detailed instructions, we were sent back to our jurisdictions with instructions to call the trainer if we ran into any more problems.

Equipped with our knowledge of the new system, the other interns and I set to work accepting absentee applications and sending out ballots. The jurisdiction I work for has 10 different precincts, and we have to separate voters into their correct precinct and make sure that each voter gets their unique ballot. As the applications came in, we had to file them into the system, making sure to record the date they sent the ballot in and confirm the voter’s identity. Then, we assign the voter a ballot number, and we label and package the ballot to prepare it for mailing. Just imagine what bigger cities like Detroit have to go through in order to keep everything organized.

Sounds simple, right? It’s a lot more work than you would think. Attention to detail is imperative in order to do this right. You have to remember to perform the steps in an exact order, and if you miss one step, you might have to delete everything and start over. If you assign the ballot to the wrong person or assign two people the same ballot number there will be a huge problem in the system. If you only record the ballot number the person was assigned in the computer system and not on the physical application, there could be a big problem where you skip numbers, and then you would have to delete everything and start over from the begining.

It’s a big responsibility to make sure that everyone can vote, and a lot of work goes into this behind the scenes. My coworkers and I work tirelessly all day to make sure there are no snags, and that all the problems that come up get solved so that the people can vote.  So today, as we celebrate our nation’s values and origins, don’t forget to celebrate the people who do the important work to ensure that the gears that create our democracy run smoothly.

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