Updated: Nov 13, 2020
I volunteered to be a poll worker for the recent election and proudly completed my tour of duty! I call it a tour of duty because it felt like one of my deployments during my time in the Air Force; long hours with little sleep and little to no time off. I attended a training class prior to being assigned to a precinct and must say I was pleasantly surprised at how well the training prepared me for the experience. I learned every aspect of the state and local voting procedures and processes; voter registration (and deadlines) voter identification, voter check-in, ballot completion/casting/tracking, and a unique concept called curbside voting for the disabled. In curbside voting, the ballot is loaded on a laptop computer and carried out to the vehicle of disabled voters and once their identification is confirmed, the individuals can cast their ballot electronically. I can honestly say while I was not surprised; the professional elections folks have an outstanding system in place at every level to ensure elections are fair and impartial.
I worked as an elections clerk at one precinct during early voting, which was almost three weeks in Texas, and an alternate election judge at another precinct on election day. Even though it felt like working in a lab with all the safety procedures in place for the pandemic i.e. hand sanitizer, rubber gloves, masks, and face shields; our team still made sure everyone who showed up to vote was able to cast their ballot. During early voting, there were lines as long as three hours and I was impressed at how patient and cooperative people were while waiting to get inside to vote. South Texas November weather was predictably unpredictable as there were days when the temps were in the 90s and other days where it was rainy and cold with morning temps in the low 40s. But overall, the weather was perfect voting weather and voter turnout in both early voting and on election day was the highest ever!
The entire experience was just another opportunity to give back and try to make a difference in some small way. I worked over 120 hours during the three weeks of early voting and on election day. The hours were long, and the work was intense at times, but my focus and the focus of the other clerks and judges was getting it right and making sure every vote was cast and counted correctly. I have had few experiences, personal or professional, that compare to the feeling I get when I can give back to contribute to the greater good. I'm sure that's because I know I can never give back enough for what I feel is a most blessed life. I have the three Fs of Faith, Family, and Friends (in that order) as my compass and in my current phase of life, giving back is my true north. Even in retirement, I consider my time my most valuable resource and I carefully choose who I spend time with and what causes I commit to support. But any time I have an opportunity that allows me to give back in some way, I do it without hesitation.
FOOTNOTE: My wife Carol also volunteered and worked many long hours during the election. The pandemic made this incredibly challenging for both of us, but we did it anyway! Due to the potential exposure during the election, the San Antonio Elections Board offered free COVID-19 testing for all poll workers after the election--both our results were negative.