Written By Gary Smith
It seems appropriate during this time of election chaos to bring forward my eye-witness account as a poll watcher in the 2020 Presidential election. What went wrong? Where do we go from here?
I volunteered for poll watching and worked from the first day of early voting through election day November third. Having worked a previous election in 2004, I was prepared for the many different situations from voters who didn’t know where they lived to voters who didn’t speak either English or Spanish. In those situations, poll workers were instructed to help as best they could either with a provisional ballot for the person who didn’t know where he/she lived, or with assistance in changing from Spanish to an English screen for a man who spoke Chinese only).
My experience this year was similar in that we did our best to help people vote despite problems such as a signatures that didn’t match, wrong addresses, or no listing on the registrar list. The solution for most problems is the provisional ballot, which is basically submitting the ballot with the stipulation that to be counted the voter must provide proof of residency etc., to the registrar’s office.
There were numerous voters whose signature had changed or looked different, which is somewhat common but easily cured with ID. This year a new problem emerged with the interface between the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) Registration and the Voter’s Registrar. Many people who registered through the DMV were not on the registration roles at the time of their voting. Apparently, the DMV had some cut off dates (dates after which registration information was not forwarded to the Registrar of Voters) which exacerbated the connection problems between the two agencies.
We did see some good changes in voting in 2020. Most notably, people could vote at any polling station in the county rather than being only allowed to vote in their assigned precinct, thus avoiding hours’ long lines or being told they were too late. Another improvement was the voter’s ability to drop off their mail-in ballot at a polling location where their ballot was scanned in before deposit.
One of the most appreciated changes was the ability of voters to use BallotTrax where they could track their vote and assure it was counted.
But there were some changes that contributed to the lack of transparency. In previous years poll watchers were allowed to be close to the workers (I remember standing right behind a poll worker where I could see and hear everything that occurred). That didn’t happen in 2020. Poll watchers were assigned seats further away than was standard procedure, presumably due to COVID-19 protocols and in some instances this became extreme. I was approximately 23 feet away and as a result, I could not hear any of the conversations and observing was extremely difficult except for overt actions such as the worker making a call to the registrar or handing the voter a provisional ballot or an address/information update form.
The mass mail in ballot system that the legislature passed in the middle of the night, without input from our Secretary of State, also created problems. Several voters had multiple ballots that had been erroneously mailed to their home, including ones for a dead parent, roommates that no-longer lived there, and in some cases multiple ballots for the same person albeit with different variations of their name. This created more chaos and, in my opinion resulted in inefficient ballot counting.
While I believe the poll workers at my station were honest and as efficient as they could be under these circumstances, the high school situation did give me pause, as I felt our jobs as poll watchers were impossible to perform given the distance restrictions.
I have no doubt that voter integrity is the most important issue facing us today. We must all work together when the Nevada Legislature starts its next session in February 2021. I urge each of you to stay alert and follow the legislature to ensure they do their jobs in reforming voting laws. Let’s not allow them to pass any more laws in the middle of the night that may prove detrimental to our quality of life in Nevada. We all have a voice. Let’s use it.
For more information please log onto www.washoegop.org.