“Here ye, here ye! The polls are now open.”
Traditionally, that’s how the callers are supposed to announce the opening of the polls. But Michele Stonecipher, inspector of the 9th Precinct, prefers a no-nonsense approach.
“You can vote now,” Stonecipher said.
Stonecipher is the manager of the precinct, organizing the set-up of polls at Southside Middle School along with her husband, Rick.
Rick operates as a sheriff during election season, aiding people with the polls and casting their vote.
The pair got started volunteering for election season around 2014 after listening to a speech by Franklin Graham, the Rev. Billy Graham’s son, encouraging citizens to get involved in government. The two decided to work the polls together.
Rick and Michele both “love seeing the election process happen from start to finish.” Their day begins at 5:30 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m., but they don’t mind the long hours.
“Election Day is the only day we come together as Americans,” Michele said.
Their typical day goes something like this:
5:30 a.m. Arrival
Michele and Rick are already at the polls, testing out the machinery to make sure the vote is counted accurately that day.
A pot of coffee is already brewing for the rest of the volunteers who like to eat doughnuts and tell stories before the polls open at 6 a.m.
Rick likes to share memories of his time playing lead guitar of his own rock band at 10 years old. As he got older, Rick played in bars and then transitioned to performing and writing Christian music for his local church.
6 a.m. The polls open
This is Michele and Rick’s favorite and worst part of the day as they open up the doors to the swelling line of people ready to cast their ballot before they go to work.
“You get to see the best and worst in people,” Rick said.
Every year there’s a group of people looking to obstruct the lines into the voting polls or influence voters at the last minute by advertising in illegal zones.
However, the payoff of watching the citizens who are willing to follow the legal and orderly procedure vote is more than enough reward for the husband-wife duo.
“You sense the pride of these people being Americans,” Michele said.
6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Working the polls
As poll workers, Rick and Michele shed their political stances and talk with voters about their day as they line up to vote.
Volunteers don’t take a break until the polls close at 6 p.m., and they don’t normally vote on Election Day.
Polling volunteers usually work in different precincts than their own, preventing them from casting a ballot at the box.
However, the availability of absentee and early voting means their vote is secure.
“If you don’t exercise your privilege, you’re going to lose it,” Michele said.
6-7 p.m. Counting the vote
At the end of the day, clerks double-check meticulous hand-written voting records with machine tallies. In Rick and Michele’s time working at the polls, “[they’ve] never been off.”
The job means long hours with no breaks. The duo said not everyone is up for the task, but if one is interested in politics and people, it is the perfect position for them.
“If you’re about getting the vote out and helping people and wanting to meet people, then definitely do something like this,” Michele said.
Contact Adam Pannel with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.