Tending the polls

News | April 23, 2020

Editor’s note: Auditors in Iowa are encouraging people to vote absentee for the June primaries. In-person voting locations will be limited. For those living in Scott County, visit scottcountyiowa.com/auditor for more information.

Early in the morning on election day, 300 people in Scott County rise before the sun is up and head to the polls. They pack lunch, dinner, and some snacks, and arrive ready for the day at dozens of polling sites throughout the county. They stay until about 10 p.m. All of the 60-some precincts have workers who consider themselves Republican and Democrat. Who are they?

“They are people who are engaged in ensuring democracy works at its best, and that happens when people go to the polls and exercise their right to vote,” said Roxanna Moritz, the Scott County Auditor. She leads elections in the county, and as president of the Iowa Association of County Auditors. “I don’t know what my life would be like without such civic-minded people who want to ensure that our democracy continues in a fair and honest manner,” Roxanna said.

St. Paul members who are poll workers include Phil Simms, Deanna Feuerbach, Irene Hansen, and George Bleich. George recently took some time to take part in a Q&A about his work at the polls.

What made you decide to become a poll worker?

My uncle, Ernest Kleeman, was a poll worker in Plymouth, Nebraska. I admired him and thought to myself that after I retire, I would like to try being a poll worker in Scott County. After I retired on January 15, 2002, I contacted the auditor’s office and they assigned me to be chairperson at McKinley School. This voting site has been moved to Duck Creek Lodge, where I have worked ever since.

What is a typical day at the polls?

We start setting up the voting machines, e-poll machines, tables and chairs for the voters and usually five or six poll workers at 6 a.m. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. for primary elections or 9 p.m. for general elections. We have one of the busiest work sites with 500 to 700 voters for the primary election and 1,100 voters for the general elections. There is at least one voter in the Tending the polls With 16-hour days, election day workers ‘ensure democracy works at its best’ building every second of the day. We make sure each voter lives in our precinct, has a valid Iowa driver’s license, a United States passport, or a United States military or veteran ID before they are allowed to vote. We must initial every ballot and check their name as voted in the official election roster. Of course, we encourage the voter to take an “I Voted” sticker to let their friends and neighbors know that they should vote. After the polls close, we must shut down the voting machines, and hand the results to the sheriff’s department posse, who takes the results to the auditor’s office for everyone to hear.

What is the best part of the job?

When everything runs smoothly throughout the day. You are always happy when you can see and talk with some of your neighbors and friends, if we aren’t too busy with other things.

What is the most challenging?

Roxanna Moritz, auditor of Scott County, and her workers at the auditor’s office, do an excellent job of training all the poll workers each year. They have all the directions written down and all we do is follow them. If the electricity should ever be off, we would have to go to a manual paper ballot that would be tabulated by the machine when the electricity goes back on. We like to keep the line of voters moving quickly so they are able to get into the facility and out within a few minutes. When we are really busy, the e-poll machines will let us know if the voter lives in our precinct or not. If they live in our precinct and have not registered to vote, they may register that day at the poll if they have the proper identification. This will take more time for the poll worker.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a poll worker?

If anyone is interested in becoming a poll worker, they should contact the auditor’s office and complete the employment form. There will be a background check before a job is offered, and you should be a resident of Scott County. Poll workers are always needed. The workers get older each year, and many of them find the 15-16 hour work days too strenuous. We are not allowed to leave the place of work during the day. We all bring packed lunches and snacks to share for the long day. For more information about working the polls, visit scottcountyiowa.com/auditor/poll-workers.

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