Just Call Me Officer – Ballot Officer, That Is
This past October 27, I worked as a ballot officer for the Toronto mayoral election. I remembered how much my grandmother enjoyed working as a poll clerk in the past; I was happy to follow in her footsteps and I was glad that I did.
It felt like there was a lot of excitement in the air leading up to the election. I myself do not recall ever being quite as interested as I was in any election in the past as I was in this one, and I was glued to my television screen for every debate.
As I had not worked a full day in a couple of years, I worried about whether or not I would be able to make it through a twelve and a half hour day, or for that matter, if I would be able to wake up in time. I tested my alarm clock several times to make sure it was loud enough. Most of the weekend preceding the election was spent planning and preparing food to bring in my cooler, since apart from a short break to go to the bathroom, we would be working straight through the day and evening until the polls closed.
I was surprised when I woke up the morning of the election and realized that I had in fact had a great sleep and was ready to face the day.
The location I was placed in could not have been more ideal. As I was situated in the lobby of my apartment building, obviously there was no travel time, and washroom breaks were very convenient. Besides that, I enjoyed interacting with my neighbours when they came to vote, and I found their reactions when they realized I was working there amusing. Some of them were surprised and even excited to see me, one lady offering to take my picture, which I sadly had to decline as there were no cameras allowed. However, here’s a photo I took afterwards to commemorate the occasion of the sticker I proudly wore all day, the one souvenir I was able to keep:
It wasn’t easy at times, but I really stuck to the rules. When a couple of potential voters forgot to bring their ID with them and said “Oh come on Andrea, you know me”, I had to stand my ground. As I was already warned about that possibility in training, I had no problem politely asking several people to go back upstairs to their apartments to get their identification.
Because I was working the polls, I was careful not to express any opinions on social media or elsewhere, before, during or even after voting day. There were of course times throughout the day of the election when people, especially those that I knew well, would comment on who they were voting for or who they thought would win. In those cases, I did what I normally do when someone talks about their political views or voting choices – nod and smile without saying a word.
I was amazed at how exhausted I was the day after. It was worth it though, as the experience was definitely a positive one. I liked the lady I was working with, and as we chatted the time away during down times, I thought to myself that you never know where you can make a new friend.
One thing that I found very touching was when we had a few folks come to the polls and proudly announce that as they had only just days before become Canadian citizens, that this would be their first time voting. I felt genuine excitement when I said “congratulations” when they submitted their first ever ballots.
We had a great turnout and I was impressed by the efforts of the many seniors and people with disabilities in our building who made their way down to vote with their walkers or the assistance of a caregiver.
It was obvious that this election meant something to the people of Toronto. It meant something to me too, and I was especially excited to have participated in something that felt so important.
When I got home that night and watched the live coverage of the results on TV, I felt proud that in some small way, I had been a part of such a significant event in our city, and I hope that I will have the opportunity to work as an election official again in the future.
I will keep my opinions with regard to the people’s choice and whether I felt happy about it or not to myself, but as far as the day I spent as a ballot officer goes, that’s got my vote!♦
Copyright © by Andrea Freedman, 2014