The Primary Elections: Serving the polls is easier said than done

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As I See It by ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

We were trained a week before the June 5, 2018 California Gubernatorial Primary Election.

We picked up our election supplies in the warehouse. We coordinated with election officers and Register of Voters (ROV) specialists. We tracked down precinct inspectors. We checked Monday Election Eve Set-up. We walked up very early in the morning to be in the election precincts on Election Day. We checked voting precincts (I was assigned nine precincts as a Field Inspector) to make sure there were no election issues. We made sure all the precincts were processing voters the whole day from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. then closing their precincts. We also made sure all election couriers picked up the supplies and election results. We were released late evening until all the assigned precincts were cleared! That, in a nutshell, is the work of a field inspector on Election Day. Well, it’s easier said than done!

My challenge started on Saturday when all precinct Inspectors (PI) were to pick up their precinct supplies. I contacted all my PIs to remind them of the pick-up time only to find out that one of them begged to be excused. Suddenly, he said he could not serve on Election Day and he was withdrawing. Wow, that’s two days before elections! Immediately I contacted Precinct Inspector Paula Ramirez and the Field Inspector Coordinator Ronald Rebong to look for an immediate replacement. On Sunday, they were able to get one from the stand-by list of election officers who was immediately commissioned to serve on Monday and Tuesday.

Another setback happened on Monday, during the Monday Election Eve set-up of the polling places. One of my nine precincts had a problem. The management of the facility ROV-commissioned polling place, didn’t allow the election officers to set-up the polls that evening due to security reasons. I reported this to the coordinators and informed them the election officers for that precinct will have to set-up early morning of Monday at 6:00 a.m. instead. This is a difficult set-up just for an hour-set-up because we need to open the polls for voters at 7:00 a.m. usually, we need an evening partial set-up and complete the set-up one hour the following morning. Closely monitoring the issue, the precinct was set-up despite the odds but with a lot of flexibility and creativity employed to make it happen.

Then came the Election Day on Tuesday. Processing voters from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. is very rigorous and a very challenging activity. My nine precincts did very well except for a few issues we needed to address. The issues range from names of voters not in the roster index and in the street index, voters not knowing their precincts, inactive voters, those not in the list, demanding voters, not-that-easy voter to deal with, etc. We were trained to be courteous and respectful to voters and make sure they were able to vote.

But there was one exceptional incident that happened which we had to address. There was a formal complaint in a phone call to ROV main office from a voter who allegedly claimed she was denied to drop a vote by mail ballot by one of the election officers and said election officer was not that nice in dealing with her. I investigated the matter, got the election officer’s side and reported back to ROV. His case was adjudicated and the verdict was to remove him from the roster. I was instructed to execute the executive decision and it was a very difficult and hard decision on my part talking one-on- one to the election officer concerned. I did it in a very professional way and the person concerned understood it, but he told me he will stand by his position that he did not act as claimed.

While the issue was settled, the next problem was a replacement for the removed personnel. ROV tried to look for replacement but at that time of the day, i.e. 3 to 4 hours before the precincts will be closed, it’s really very hard to look for one. I was instructed to pull out one from precincts/reshuffle staff but the precinct assigned were either also undermanned and PI can’t let go their clerks because it will prejudice their precinct operations. I ended up devoting most of my time in said precinct to assist them in the end-processing of voters up to closing the polls.

While doing that, I also need to make sure that the rest of my precincts are working fine and no issues were encountered by them. I have to find time to call them in between the closing activities from the precinct where I am assisting, making sure their operations are likewise okay and are not having issues to be resolved.

Most of my precincts were able to close their respective precincts at about 9:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The precinct I assisted closed at 9:40 p.m. Then came the courier issue. While most of the precincts were closed, their problem was waiting for the courier team to pick their election results: the 8 items to be sent back to ROV. Since most of the couriers were assigned 3 to 4 precincts to pick-up election results, it took time for the election officers to be released. As soon as the results were picked up by the couriers, the precinct election officers were relieved from their responsible, but not for the Field Inspectors (FI). After I reported at about 10:15 p.m., to the Election Command post, the Field Inspector coordinators needed to check all items returned by the respective precincts were accounted for. He was the one who is authorized to release the FIs. In my case, I was released at 10:55 pm.

Finally, at about 11:15 p.m. I was home for dinner!

We were trained and deputized to uphold the US Constitution and support the California Laws on Election Day and… we did it! But, fellow readers, implementing the mandate and performing our roles as guardians and front liners of the Register of Voters (ROV) in the field is easier said than done! It entailed a lot of sacrifices.

I would like to thank the following Precinct Inspectors I worked with in the just concluded elections: Mojgan Mahdizadeh, Northside Branch Library, Precinct 4269; Douglas Scott, Lick Mill Bldg., Precinct 4257; Brian Tamayo, Riverwood Groove Apartments, Precinct 4258; Mary Hetherington, Stonegate Apartments -Community Room, Precinct 1439; Anita Casillas, Stonegate Apartments -Community Room, Precinct 1400; Karen Medi, Montague School Cafeteria, Precinct 4286; Indra Das, John Burns Gardens- Community Room, Precinct 4256; Marc Fontana, Agnew Park Bldg., Precinct 54272; and Vijaya, Santa Clara Fire Station 8, Precinct 4273.

Kudos to all of them for a job well done!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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