Friday, October 8, 2004
Working the election on November 2: the people and the process
The crew that will make it all happen in Carlisle on November 2 is a dedicated group of election volunteers, headed and trained by Election Warden Harriet Fortier and Town Clerk Charlene Hinton and supported by the Carlisle Police Department. Fortier is responsible for organizing and executing the voting process, beginning with recruiting and training the volunteer "inspectors," who include voter checkers, people to hand out ballots and forms, people to process the absentee ballots and the "town crank" who turns the handle of the ballot box to wind in each vote. She also recruits and trains tellers (vote counters) and oversees the counting, the checking of the tally sheets, the proper storage of the ballots and reporting of the results, and the swearing-in of all the volunteers.
On November 2, Fortier's day will begin with her inspection of the set-up of the polling room followed by her inspection and certification of the empty ballot box. After locking the box and turning the key over to a police officer designated to handle the ballot box all day, she will declare the polls open.
During the course of the day, she may request the police officer to empty the ballot box at intervals when it gets too full. The polling room will be cleared, and he will unlock and empty the contents of the box into a special "cast ballot" container, which will be sealed and carried to another room, where he will secure and guard it. Voting will then resume.
At the end of the day, a police officer will post himself at the end of the line of people who have arrived by the closing time deadline. When the last person in line has voted, Warden Fortier will declare the polls closed. At this point, the tellers will begin counting votes in teams and marking the results on tally sheets, which are then counted and included with any provisional or spoiled ballots and any unused, to achieve a balance with the original number of ballots available. Fortier will then announce the totals of the votes from a master tally sheet and seal the cast ballot container, now carrying all the counted ballots. She and Election Clerk Connie Metivier will sign it and the master tally sheet, and the election is officially closed. Any remaining provisional votes will be counted and added to the total votes within three days.
Traditionally, the polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., and that's a long working day. This year, the polls will open at 6 a.m. to accommodate the large number of ballots expected to be cast. Warden Fortier is therefore seeking at least 60 Carlisle citizens to work on the big day. To be eligible, a citizen need only be a registered voter in Carlisle. There is no age limit, and this is an excellent opportunity for young and old alike to participate in this treasured part of our political process. Fortier wants a lot of volunteers, she says, to allow the checkers and tellers to work "in shifts, so they can come up to breathe" every so often.
Entrance checkers will scrutinize voters to determine whether they have brought any campaign materials into the polling room, and then will locate their streets, house numbers, and names on their polling lists. Others will hand out ballots to each eligible voter. Still others will process and cast the absentee ballots at intervals during the day. Exit checkers will again check voters' streets, house numbers, and names, and then send them on to the ballot box to cast their ballots with the "town crank."
At the end of the day, a squad of tellers will be needed to count votes and record them on the tally sheets. Again, Fortier would like these volunteers to work in shifts, to avoid burnout and error.
Town Clerk Charlene Hinton is an integral part of the process, organizing on her end the voter registration and absentee ballots, transportation options (in concert with the Council on Aging's Liz Jewell) for seniors, ensuring police presence in appropriate numbers at the polls and in the immediate area of Town Hall, and being the current authority on state regulations and, with the Warden, the deciding vote on questions or problems.
Call to volunteer
Fortier and Hinton will conduct training for all the volunteers at a meeting about a week before the election. The exact time will be posted in Town Hall and will appear in the Mosquito in the coming weeks. The training session will provide full instructions and address recent changes in the way voters are processed.
Anyone who would like to participate in this election as a worker is encouraged to call the Town Clerk's office at 1-978-369-6155 or Harriet Fortier at 1-978-369-5290 by October 15.
© 2004 The