OC Election Workers Want to Help Make Things Right – Orange County Register

Desperate pleas for more hands on deck tugged at her civic conscience—and unraveling the mysteries of how elections really, really work piqued her curiosity.

How easy is it really to cheat?

Helen Myers, a first-time poll clerk and normally independent voter — this time a registered Republican to vote for a few specific candidates — answered the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ call, assuming she would commit to the service for a few days.

She was at an Anaheim school Thursday, unpacking voting equipment and setting up the room. She was there on Friday to check voters in. She was there Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 7:30am to 9pm. On election day, she prepared to start and finish her work in the dark, with a 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule. “I don’t do that anymore!” She laughed, trying to fit in a shopping spree during one of her Monday breaks. “It’s incredible.”

Tired, yes, but seeing the voting system up close was worth the price of admission.

“People appreciate us”

Alice Ovanesian, right, of Newport Beach, a polling officer overseeing five polling sites for the midterm elections, stands Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Alice Ovanesian, right, of Newport Beach, a polling officer overseeing five polling sites for the midterm elections, stands Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The election observer stood guard at the Irvine Civic Center for hours. Watching how people lined up. Watch them check in. Watch as their ballots are printed. Watch as people fill them out, feed them into the readers, claim their “I voted” stickers, and leave.

Irvine, not Arizona, had no armed vigilantes to worry about Tuesday – but the torrential downpour made it seem like the gods were furious. This was Returns Officer Alice Ovanesian’s second official trip – she worked in the June primary and now had five polling stations to make sure they ran smoothly – and it was clear by the wet dawn that poll workers were in the parking lots, the drive-up -Collecting ballots would be royally soaked. The Orange County electoral roll went into action, sending rain gear and sturdy canopy tents — with protective sides — to the drive-up sites to keep people and valuable ballots dry.

“This is a blast!” said Tustin’s Daniel McPherson as he collected ballots from a row of cars between downpours. “People appreciate us. It’s really nice to be appreciated.”

Tustin's Daniel McPherson, a first-time elections customer service representative, reviews ballots being cast in the parking lot of the voting center for the midterm elections at the Irvine Civic Center in Irvine on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire , Orange County Register/SCNG)
Tustin’s Daniel McPherson, a first-time Elections Customer Service Representative, reviews ballots being cast in the parking lot of the Voting Center for the midterm elections at the Irvine Civic Center in Irvine on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Registry/SCNG)

After the problem was solved, Ovanesian slipped into one of the worker’s chairs to cover for someone on a break. She had been working since October 28 to get the aisles of democracy going – unpacking, setting up and securing machines, making sure there were enough ballots and pens, and so on. at each location – and after the final ballots returned to the electoral roll on Tuesday night, she expected to be back on Wednesday morning to disassemble, pack and take everything back to the voter’s office. For next time.

process is precious

With a line out the door, each station was filled with voters as they cast their ballots for the midterm elections late Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Northwood Community Center Voting Center in Irvine. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange District Registry/SCNG)
With a line out the door, each station was filled with voters as they cast their ballots for the midterm elections late Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at the Northwood Community Center Voting Center in Irvine. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange District Registry/SCNG)

Ovanesian didn’t really know what she was getting into when she answered the registrar’s call for poll workers and was drafted as supervisor. Supervisors must complete a three-day training course covering everything from voting rights to customer service. You have to pass tests. When they come back for return service, as she did, they need to do refresher courses. The schedule starts sensibly – 8am to 5pm – but mushrooms into 12- and 14-hour and longer days as the nearly two-week service wears off.

Ovanesian, a retired IT supervisor living in Newport Beach, was surprised at the level of checks and balances built into the system. Poll workers are background checked. No one is left alone with ballots; there are always at least two workers on duty. They are counted – numerically – and then sealed in boxes secured with numbered labels resembling zip ties. Two workers transport them back to the registry office where the zip ties are checked to make sure they haven’t been tampered with and the numbers on the zip ties are checked to make sure they match the numbers posted at the polling station and such more There are now just as many ballot papers in the box as before. And before the lights go out in the polling stations themselves, the voting machines are also locked with number plates, these numbers are noted and checked for consistency the next morning.

Ovanesian came to the United States from Armenia at the age of 15. Your ancestors did not have free suffrage. Whether she’s tired at the end of the day or her boots are soaking wet. She wakes up looking forward to getting back to work. She knows this process is precious.

Serrell Law of Irvine, a Voting Customer Service representative for more than ten years, checks in voters for the midterm elections at the Voting Center at the Irvine Civic Center in Irvine on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Serrell Law of Irvine, a Voting Customer Service representative for more than ten years, checks in voters for the midterm elections at the Voting Center at the Irvine Civic Center in Irvine on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“System is safe”

Serrell Law, a 10+ pick veteran, directs the show at the Irvine Civic Center. They manned the polling stations when there was only one election day – set up at 6:30 am and take down late at night. She manned the polling stations when the county’s voting system fell light years short of what it has today.

This creates both a paper ballot and a scanned electronic count of this ballot – so that the counts can be cross-checked and verified. It’s a favorite of many political scientists, but some remain skeptical.

Voting pins on the lanyard of Serrell Law of Irvine, who has been an election customer service representative for more than a decade, as she voted Tuesday, April 8 (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Voting pins on the lanyard of Serrell Law of Irvine, who has been an election customer service representative for more than a decade, as she voted Tuesday, April 8 (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

She was at the forefront of a line of potential voters with a mobile e-poll book (or iPad, colloquially) in hand, trying to move things forward by checking people in while they waited. A man gave the device the stinky eye. She assured him that it was simply a mobile version of the desktop computers the workers were using and that they were all working on the same system and that by verifying it that way his individual ballot would be ready to print as soon as it came to the desk. He declined, saying he’d rather be checked in up there.

Law was gracious and moved on to check in the next person. “The system,” Law later said, “is secure.”

Law, who had retired from working in child and family services, responded to the Registrar’s call for campaign workers to give back. It was so enriching that she keeps coming back. “I love helping people,” she says. “It’s a blessing to be able to help everyone vote safely and protect their voice. That’s what we do.”

A look inside leaves no doubts

As of Tuesday, the Orange County electoral roll had mailed out 1,880,764 ballots. By noon, 464,981 ballots had been returned, split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans (with nearly 200,000 each). Ballots cast in person were a paltry 26,424 as of Monday but have more than doubled as of Tuesday afternoon.

Myers, a first-time poll worker in Anaheim, has learned not to worry about the integrity of the system. “The way we do things in Orange County, I don’t see how anyone could ever cheat or do anything suspicious,” she said. “The only way I could see what’s going on in OC is if the voter rolls aren’t updated or if someone comes in with 10 mail-in ballots. We would probably put these aside and questions would be asked. In Orange County, no box of ballots is pulled from under a table and scanned. The system is tight.”

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/11/08/poll-workers-in-oc-want-to-be-part-of-doing-things-the-right-way/ OC Election Workers Want to Help Make Things Right – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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