Working the Election Polls

Kaylani (left) and her mother at the polls.

From October 23 to November 3, 2020, I had to stand outside for 10-12 hours each day through the rain and cold weather: And It may have been one of the best experiences of my life.

Even though I am not old enough to vote, I was able to get insight into what the voting process looked like at three different polling sites in Brooklyn as a line manager. My job was to make sure people were at the right polling site and that the line moved in a timely fashion.  

The 2020 election marked the first time that New York state instituted early voting. The first week that I worked was during early voting, where people were able to vote before election day at different polls sites than their regular locations.

On the early voting days, the lines were extremely long. They would end up blocks and blocks away from the polling site. People ended up waiting for up to five hours to get inside. Even with seeing those long lines, people still wanted to wait in line because they really wanted to vote.

I heard one voter say: “ I’ll rather wait five hours on this line than have to wait four years again for this orange guy to get out of office.” I heard countless comments to that effect while people were waiting in the line. It kind of gave me insight as to who some of the voters were going to vote for and why. Many of the people were proud to be voting and wanted to make sure their vote was in, so their voices could be heard. 

I remember one of the days working at a poll site in Park Slope there was a guy driving around screaming “ F**k you” at the people on the line. Everyone was confused and scared. No one was sure if he was going to come back. No one knew if he was screaming at the people voting for Trump or for Biden. It caused a very nervous tension for the rest of the evening.

I also remember another day when there was a guy who came to the polling site and was a Trump supporter and decided that he did not want to wear a mask. He said that the president said it isn’t necessary to wear a mask so he wasn’t going to put one on. A lot of the other voters were scared that they were going to get sick from the Coronavirus or that he was going to start acting crazy and hurt them. 

Despite all of these experiences, I still feel like working the polls was one of the best experiences of my life because I felt like I was part of the change that this country needed.

I was able to help people that were going to vote with their site location and with the stations inside the building. I was able to get an overall understanding of what it’s like to vote and the sacrifices people make to have their voices heard.

– by Kaylani Adora James ’21