Polling Polemics

by: Todd Pukanecz, LPNC

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or believe the 2020 election was stolen to recognize that there are obvious irregularities in many of our elections. It is hard to determine if any of them actually rise to the level of election fraud, and I was thinking about that when I went to the polls in 2022 and the worker asked me if I’d like to volunteer. I gave them my name and contact information and forgot about it.

Late in 2023 the recruiter for the Forsyth County Board of Elections contacted me asking if I would like to be a judge for the 2024 elections. Great, I’m in and get to see how the sausage is made.

Even though we are volunteers, we do get paid for our service (somewhat more than jury duty), including the mandatory training prior to each election. And we are committed to work the full day at the polls. This involves setting up the night before and a 15-hour shift completing setup in the morning, 13 hours of processing voters, and an hour or so of lock up and clean up after the polls close.

Each county Board of Elections (BOE) uses a different mechanism and process for tabulating vote totals. Forsyth County uses paper ballots where voters fill in a bubble sheet to select their choices, then feed that into an optical scanner which collects the ballots and tabulates the totals. Our scanners are not connected to the internet and produce both printed results in quadruplicate as well as a USB thumb drive with the vote totals.

The thing that most impressed me was the level of detail to ensure a clear chain of custody for the ballot sheets, thumb drives, and paper receipts. Equipment is sealed with a numbered tag, judges confirm that the machinery starts at zero, that the number of ballots at the end of the day match the number at the beginning of the day, that the vote totals align with the number of ballots used, and that the machinery is resealed with new numbered tags.

I thought I was volunteering to be a poll worker, but I volunteered to be a judge. The work is the same, but as a judge I have to sign off that the processes were followed, the counts match, and the evidence bags are untampered.

This was the first election where North Carolina required a picture ID to vote. None of the 750 voters we processed complained about it and all of them had some form of ID. The NC law is pretty broad, so voters can use military ID, government worker ID, and in some cases student and expired IDs. Even without ID a voter can cast a provisional ballot as long as they produce a valid ID within nine days of the election.

In North Carolina, people can register as a Libertarian for their party affiliation. This greatly improves visibility for the party on several levels. The party and candidates appear on all state and county election materials. And we have a partisan primary so voters can only vote for candidates of one party. Since many voters are unaffiliated, we get to ask those voters which party ballot they want to use and verbally say "Libertarian" along with the other parties when we ask them.

One of the poll workers didn’t know what the LP was and I got to (discreetly) describe the LP and its principles. She didn’t seem impressed but at least it sparked some curiosity. That Argentina’s Javier Milei has had good success implementing libertarian ideas was a huge bonus.

Overall this was an enjoyable and interesting experience. The chief judge had worked many elections and was easygoing, the other workers were diligent and friendly, and the voters were mostly appreciative of our work.

The precinct I worked in is a semi-rural suburb and I didn't really expect to encounter any election shenanigans. But I would encourage all LP members who have the opportunity to volunteer to work the polls on election day. It will be a good use of your time and a valuable service to your community and party.


Showing 2 reactions

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  • Bob Drach
    commented 2024-05-01 21:29:00 -0400
    Todd – thanks for promoting this opportunity. As you describe, this is a great form of community service and way to engage in the political process. It reflects well on the party and its members. It is a building block for getting our ideas and people into the mainstream.
  • Rob yates
    published this page in Featured Articles 2024-04-30 23:06:43 -0400
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