Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Don’t Drop the Drop Boxes for Voters: They Work!

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

Photos by Jory Westberry | We were grateful for the shade and any slight breeze that came our way and the opportunity to meet the dedicated voters from Southwest Florida.


 

I’ll admit it right up front, I’d never been trained to be a poll worker for an election, much less a Presidential election. However, in 2020, I took the basic training, for over four hours at the Supervisor of Elections office, which would enable me to work the general election. This training included a manual with explicit procedures, a Power Point slide show with multiple opportunities for Q and A from trainees and extra time working on potential scenarios, and a quiz at the end of the training!

Motor right up to the Drop Box, save gas and motor on to other exciting things in your day.

So, I was prepared to work the general election, until I received a call that they needed more people to work the Drop Box stations. “Okay,” I thought, “I’m always up for a challenge” and the Drop Box initiative appealed to me because of the ease of casting ballots for many of our senior citizens.

My husband was also interested in the training so we both attended another four-hour training separately with the protocols explained, the rationale for each along with the strict procedures that were expected to be followed. 

The training also included some physical training, how to move the heavy locked Drop Box from where it was locked and sequestered inside a locked room inside the locked library, until the trained workers signed in and were ready to move the Drop Box into its designated location. Oh, and part of the training was to set up a canopy, attach weights to keep it from being up ended in the wind, along with the folding tables and chairs outside where the Drop Box was to be located and have information available for any voters, including comment cards that could be mailed to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections, Jennifer Edwards.

In case you’re wondering, my husband and I were never assigned to the Drop Box on the same day, just to make sure there was no question about the legitimacy of the voting. There were two non-related, trained people at each Drop Box at the Early Voting locations

Now, here’s another positive. Once the information was communicated to our residents about the ability to walk, drive, bike, use crutches, wheelchairs, or skateboards to vote at the Drop Boxes, the participation was enthusiastic and steady. In fact, brace yourself, there were nearly 1.5 million voters that voted this way across our state!

According to the Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE), a group of Florida’s 67 elections officials, “Only voters who request mail ballots may receive them. Supervisors cannot send Vote by Mail ballots to all voters.” I have heard rumors to the contrary.

It was our role at the Drop Box site, to check the outside of the ballot envelopes to be sure all the information was completed, and the voter had signed it. It was not our role to verify the signatures; that was done at the election’s office. We were trained that professionalism was always expected and we took that seriously. Voters were encouraged to place their ballots in the box themselves so there was no question that it would be safe and counted, plus they could see there was no way to get a hand in that narrow slot!

 



 

One thing about our community is that we have many seniors that would welcome accommodations instead of standing in line outside in the hot sun for a lengthy amount of time before reaching the air-conditioning. Could they mail their ballots? Of course. But many want to be reassured that their ballots have been delivered safely and they voted independently. And they don’t need postage.

 The voter places their ballot in the Drop Box without interference and is gifted with an “I Voted” sticker. Some seniors drove up to the Drop Box and handed us two ballots; one for self and another for a spouse who completed the ballot but was bed-ridden and unable to travel. One of the perks of working the polls is that you run into people you haven’t seen in a long time, and if there’s no one else waiting, you can catch up!

The Drop Box saved many voters time and alleviated stressful lines.

There are always two of us at the Drop Box from the pick-up in the morning to the drop off at the conclusion of the voting day. We pick up the chairs and table and start rolling the Drop Box to the secure area inside the library where the next checkpoints are located.

The reverse procedure is to take the Drop Box inside the secure voting area by the two of us on duty, bring it to the attention of the designated Clerk who unlocks the Drop Box using two keys. The ballots are placed on a table within the eyesight of the Clerk, the poll-watchers and all the trained people who work the election process. The ballots are counted and verified by two or more trained poll workers and placed in a transfer bag, which is locked and transferred by certified courier to the Supervisor of Elections Office, where they are logged and verified.

Now, what is it about this process that makes you think that it’s illegal or not secure enough and should be eliminated? As a trainee, with inquisitive qualities, I can’t think of a reason that this process isn’t a good one. It allows voters with disabilities or medical conditions to complete their ballots at home and drop them off, leveling the playing field for all voters. We had voters in wheelchairs and walkers that could barely make it from their cars to the Drop Box. Should they be excluded because of a medical condition? Should they stand in the rain for an hour or more or in the scorching Florida sun as the line to vote progresses slowly outside the official voting venue?

It’s inexcusable that factions across the country desire to limit the parameters of voting when they should be expanded, rather than limited. Why would some limit the participation of voters; is there a valid reason? If a vote is to be fair and accurate, it should be accessible for ALL including our health-challenged and seniors. Almost 1.5 million voters across Florida using the Drop Box in its first year of service says something significant about its efficacy.

“In 2020, Florida was universally praised for our exemplary conduct of elections – from the very highest offices at the federal and state level to our most important stakeholders – voters. Governor DeSantis issued an executive order that allowed us to start processing mail ballots sooner,” according to the FSE and “as ballots were received, they were tabulated, which enabled Florida to report almost all of the voting results on Election Night,” unlike many other states.

 


 

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