September 30, 2020

Training

Heavy rain fell last night, and it felt like a much-needed shower after the degradation of the first presidential debate. Today was my training session for becoming an election worker, and I was grateful for this small concrete thing that occupied my attention for a few hours while everything else feels like it’s coming undone.

We reported for training at the Javits Convention Center, which had been a makeshift hospital earlier this year. Now it’s a husk of Robocop architecture filled with shuttered shops and empty escalators, save for the decals on the floor that kept us six feet apart before we filed into a conference room for four hours. A small bald man barked at us like a drill sergeant, running us through the logistics of address changes, court-ordered ballots, and affidavit requests. “You’ll be working at least seventeen hours on Election Day,” he said. “So bring a sandwich.” Seventeen hours is workable, but I made a strangled noise when he said we had to be there at five o’clock in the morning, which is usually my bedtime. But I’ll gut it out. Every vote truly counts in this election, even in New York City. Each vote that makes it onto the scoreboard on election night will help inoculate us against the thieving fuckery that’s sure to come.

They gave us a 116-page manual and showed us a video that told us not to wear flip flops. “And remember, remain calm and neutral in all circumstances,” said the video. I learned that ballots come in packs of fifty, and we must mark an X on a paper grid whenever we give one to a voter. The machines are horribly complicated creatures that require configuration reports, diagnostic tape, serial-numbered tags, and sealed envelopes. There’s a device with a beautiful sci-fi name called The Cradlepoint that networks the polling site. We learned how to plug it in. They told us to cover extension cords and remove any items that a voter might bump into. We learned the appropriate distances that must be observed for exit polling and political discussion. We did hypothetical math problems that tallied up emergency ballots, voided ballots, and any ballots remaining in the scanner.

We will wipe down surfaces after each voter. And we must work in bipartisan teams at all times, so maybe I’ll make a Republican friend.

Each night in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.
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