I’ll have to set an alarm tomorrow morning. It’s been a long, long times since I’ve set an alarm in the morning. Probably for 0500 hours, so I can wake up, check the perimeter with the cat, make coffee, get dressed, prepare food for the day, cosset the cat some, and get to the Lutheran church that’s my assigned polling station by 0600.
I’ll be there all day, setting up the polling station, checking in voters, registering new voters, handing out ballots. All day, until the polls close at 2100. Then maybe another hour breaking down the polling station.
I volunteered to be an election worker this year because of the pandemic. A lot of the usual election workers — mostly elderly women — opted not to work the polls out of a reasonable concern of contracting Covid-19. I live in Iowa, a state with a Republican governor who has faithfully followed the Trump path of Covid-denial. She has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, she has insisted schools reopen in person, she has been inconsistent in her approach to closing/opening small businesses, and she has been accused of misusing US$21 million of federal pandemic relief funding to buy executive branch software. Despite the fact that Iowa has frequently ranked in the top ten states with the highest Covid positive testing rates (today the positivity rate is 13.4%), the governor has said, “We have to learn to live with it [Covid-19] and we have to do it in a safe and responsible manner.”
That casually negligent approach is reflected in the way we’ll handle the election. The state will provide election workers with masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes. Maybe gloves, maybe face shields. We’ll be given tape to make social distance markers for voters. That’s it for Covid precautions. There’ll be no plexiglass screens between election workers and voters. Voters will NOT be required to wear masks.
Happily, we’ve seen a LOT of early voting, which may alleviate the number of in-person voters tomorrow. Many (maybe most) early voters will have been Democrats; Trump has stressed that he wants his supporters to vote on Election Day. Those Republican voters will likely be the ones without masks.
The polls open at 0700 and remain open until 2100. Fourteen hours. Sixteen hours, including set-up and break-down. In a closed environment (probably with an old ventilation system). Face to face with strangers. Without a mask mandate.
Some election workers will almost certainly contract Covid-19.
I don’t expect any other trouble tomorrow. Although Iowa is a toss-up state, with an almost equal number of Biden and Trump supporters, we’re not likely to see the sort of aggressive voter intimidation and suppression tactics taking place in some states. We have our share of gun nuts, rabid right-wing conservatives, and wanna-be ‘freedom fighters’ but so far they haven’t been showing up at polling places armed with semi-automatic rifles.
That said, it’s a shameful comment on the current state of the nation that an election worker is grateful that armed self-appointed political gangs probably won’t be intruding on the electoral process. Four years ago, the very idea that something like that might happen was almost unimaginable; now we’re grateful that it’s not happening at our particular polling site.
After the election, I’ll be isolating myself for at least ten days. Today I’ll be going geocaching with my brother. Today I’ll be spending as much time outside as the weather will allow. Today I’ll have fun and not give much thought to the election. Because tomorrow will be a long day.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d much prefer to be home, spending time with people I care about and a narcissistic cat. It’ll be a long day, but giving up sixteen hours is really a rather small contribution to the democratic process. A long day is a very, very small sacrifice. It’ll be a long day, but I think it’ll be worthwhile.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day for everybody, and we know more long days will follow it. It’s to be hoped there will be only another 70 or so long days until Comrade Trump is out of office. Otherwise, I despair for the future of the United States.