I got my US citizenship in 2001 at a ceremony at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC, less than two months before 9/11. Since then, I voted every year. Twice year if you include the primaries. Each time, as I walked into the polling place the elderly poll workers who have seen me before would greet me. They knew me by name and they would immediately find me in the poll book before I even walked over their desk.
In 2020, at the height of COVID pandemic, the municipalities in New Jersey were facing a severe shortage of poll workers for the November general election. Since most of the poll workers were the elderly, few of them wanted to be indoors in crowded settings in the middle of a pandemic. I realized it was my turn to be that poll worker on the front lines of the American democracy.
Since 2020, I use a volunteering day to work as a poll worker every year. For the record, poll workers are paid so it isn’t exactly volunteering. I don’t do it for the $300 we get for a 15 hour long and hard day, so I typically donate to a civil rights charity like ACLU. This week was my fourth election cycle if I include the 2021 primary election.
Each time I work as a poll worker I find it an extremely rewarding experience. As a naturalized US citizen I believe in the promise of America and the right of people to self-govern.
As the election machinery becomes more technologically advanced, we need people like me who are technologically savvy to help troubleshoot the equipment and spot and report problems before they escalate.
Most importantly, working at the polls requires people-skills that I don’t generally get to learn and exercise every day in my day-to-day life. Polls are a customer-service front-line. It is easy to get stuck in a bubble of work-life surrounded by like-minded people who think and act like we do. But society at large is not like that. Ability to defuse and de-escalate a high visibility conflict is a skill I am proud to practice that follows me back to my day-to-day work.
All that said, I encourage my followers in the US not only to make sure they are registered to vote and exercise their right to vote every election cycle; but also consider working at the polls. Take a day off from work, spend 15 hours helping your own neighbors exercise their right to vote. I am confident that just like me, you’ll find it extremely rewarding.