They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a nation to put on a democratic election.
Methodic Processes are the fabric of the American Political System, the bread and butter of democratic elections. As the 2021 election season approaches, it’s good to understand the election process.
During the 2020 presidential election, I served as a youth election judge. I manned my computer station at the Chaffee County fairgrounds, acting as a non-partisan proponent in the greater machine which determines our leaders.
At the time of the 2020 elections, I was taking a Government class, delving deeper into election processes and history. When the opportunity to work as an election judge presented itself, I took it immediately. Just shy of 18, I was seeking out other ways to fulfill my civic duty.
I was stationed in Poncha Springs at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds. Poncha was a low-volume polling station, and, to be frank, it was not the most exciting job. My sit bones ached after hours on the metal folding chair and at some point, it was easier to let my eyelids droop than try to look alive.
When a voter did come in, though, life surged through the entire space. In a matter of seconds, each individual judge was prepared to carry out their task with the utmost care and concern.
We were a well-oiled machine. In what felt like one slick motion, I had voter information pulled up on my computer, passed the ballot requirements to the ballot judge, and in no time the voter had their ballot and was headed to a private booth to fill in their bubbles. This routine was the same for every person who arrived at our station. The explicit purpose of myself and the other judges was to give each individual who entered our space the opportunity to vote as they desired.
Among the crew of election judges were the entrance and exit judges. Each of them was stationed at a doorway welcoming voters, assisting them, and enforcing the rules of a polling station.
One such rule, as stated on the Colorado Secretary of State website, says, “Under Colorado law, Electioneering (aka, campaigning) is prohibited from taking place either inside a polling place or within 100 feet of any building in which a polling location is located. In addition, electioneering is prohibited within 100 feet of a drop-box. Each polling place must post signs marking the limit.”
The only disturbance I experienced as a judge involved this rule. The day before the election, a truck was parked near the fairgrounds, more than 100 feet away, displaying campaign paraphernalia. Although no laws were broken or threats made, as judges we stayed alert and prepared for a potential upset.
Only a few weeks earlier, all of the judges in the county underwent training, learning the ins and outs of each election judge position, should we need to act outside our designated role. The fastidious nature of the training was undeniable: consisting of multiple stages over two days, both self-advised and under the tutelage of County Clerk Lori Mitchell and Chief Deputy Kit Kuester. Nearly every possible scenario was accounted for in our binders or a series of videos.
For ensured security and accountability, each judge was assigned a personal computer log-in and code grid, which was kept with their personnel badge and locked up every night, inaccessible until polls were opened the next day.
Perhaps the aspect of the training that stands out most in my memory, is Mitchell’s dedication to the job. No minutiae were looked over by her, questions were savored, and above all — she wanted us to be the showpiece for truly secure and efficient voting.
From an election judge’s perspective, it was due to her that this election was faultlessly carried out by Chaffee County personnel, no matter the election turn-out. This commitment to validity is a demonstration of Mitchell’s allegiance to the election processes and democracy’ an element that instills greater faith in our county and its election processes.
The work of each and every election judge and the county staff resulted in a secure, accurate, and transparent election, representing the fine processes by which government leadership is elected.
Being an election judge fostered my deep respect for the individuals who run some of the most important processes of our lives. I learned more about election systems than I may ever have known, had I not taken this job. I was also introduced to incredible people who embody the altruism that our democracy attempts to embrace, and I can see that we should all take notes from them.
To learn more about becoming an election judge contact the County Clerk and Recorder office at (719)-539-4004.