Election Day: A Dialogue


Image By Ella Ermshler

On Election Day, Editor-in-Chief Emma Murphy and writer Charlotte McManus worked as election judges. Murphy served in Oak Lawn and McManus served in Homewood. On Friday, they discussed their experiences working the polls. 

Murphy: So how was your [election] day?

McManus: It was stressful. We didn’t have that many people, but we had a lot of technology issues. 

Murphy: Oh, really? We had a lot of people. That’s why I got sent to [Oak Lawn], because there were so many people. 

McManus: We think that a lot of people voted early because at the end of the day we only had 158 voters— which is nothing!

Murphy: Yeah, that’s crazy! We had way more than that. I can’t even remember— I think we had two-hundred-and-something on one computer. 

McManus: Oh, wow!

Murphy: And we had four computers going. We probably had 200 on each computer. 

McManus: So your day was a lot more stressful than mine, then. 

Murphy: I mean, it wasn’t that stressful. It was kind of fun. I enjoyed it. 

McManus: I, personally, was stressed, just because we had a lot of technology problems. We’d call the hotlines and we’d be on hold for a long time, and voters would have to wait, and I felt bad because I thought voting should be easy. 

Murphy: Right.

McManus: And you want it to be easy. Because that’s why you’re there. 

Murphy: Yes. We didn’t have any problems like that— we actually had one person come in and he was electioneering. He was wearing this Trump hat and Trump mask. One of the women asked him to take it off and he was like “That’s not even a law! Show me the law!” So they called the sheriff and he was like “Dude, take your hat off.” 

McManus: That’s a whole altercation!

Murphy: It was hilarious. It was actually terrifying, too— I was kind of scared. I was really scared. 

McManus: Nothing like that happened in my precinct— a lot of people vaguely hinted that they weren’t voting for Trump. They would say things like “This election is so important,” etc. And we all know what they meant.

Murphy: Yeah. 

McManus: And throughout the day, at least two people mentioned that they were worried about coming to the voting center because they were afraid something was going to happen. 

Murphy: Yeah! I was obviously closer to the city because I was in Oak Lawn, but some people who were coming in were like “Yeah, the entire city’s boarded up, they’re getting ready for protests and stuff” and I was just thinking Oh God, I hope nothing happens. 

McManus: Wow. 

Murphy: My dad was worried about that. He was just worried that something was going to happen when we were leaving or something. But we didn’t have any problems like that all day.

McManus: It was also—people were suspicious about their ballots! I don’t know if that happened to you, but a few people came in and you know how you ask if they want to vote electronically or— 

Murphy: —or by paper, yeah.

McManus: Yes. They kept asking me which one was more “safe.”

Murphy: Yes, yes. 

McManus: Which… was interesting. And I didn’t think that would happen a lot, just because we happen to live in a mainly democratic district so I wasn’t worried that a lot of voter fraud would take place, but the national situation did make its way into our town.

Murphy: I definitely agree with that. There were a lot of people who came in and they asked one, which one is faster, and two, which one is safer. And a lot of people filled out their ballot wrong. 

McManus: What do you mean?

Murphy: You know the judicial ballot? How there were two separate ballots? [People] filled it out wrong. I was like, do you not know how to fill out a scantron? It’s “Yes” or “No.”

McManus (laughing): Yes, people were very much not expecting the judicial retention ballot. 

Murphy: Yeah.

McManus: I wasn’t that surprised. But I figured people would know at least a little bit about it. 

Murphy: And I had a lot of people come in and say “I haven’t voted in 30 years,” or “I haven’t voted since ‘08 but I’m voting this year.” I had a lot of people say that. I did the epollbook the whole day and I thought it was kind of fun. Did you have a lot of people bring in their mail-in ballots?

McManus: Yes! 

Murphy: Oh my god, so many people! And there was this one lady that came in and she gave me her name and her address and I said, “Oh, do you have your mail-in ballot with you?” And she said, “Ugh! No, I just threw that s*** in the garbage!” And I was like— 

McManus (laughing): Ma’am!

Murphy: And so I had to explain provisional voting to her. And she said “I didn’t even request that mail-in ballot. It’s just causing me problems now.” And she also told me, when she was leaving, she said “Oh honey, I know you’re worried about your future, but don’t you worry, when Donald Trump gets reelected, coronavirus is going to be gone in a couple of days.” 

McManus: Noooo! Is that allowed? 

Murphy: (laughing)

McManus: Oh no! I don’t know what the line for electioneering is— and I’m not saying people didn’t do that for Biden, but it wasn’t ever that direct. 

Murphy: Yes. It was awful. 

McManus: Awful! 

Murphy: Did you have a Republican [working] in your precinct?

McManus: We didn’t. 

Murphy: Really! Well, [a friend] who was working in one of the nursing homes said that she didn’t have any Republicans either. We had one, and then we had one lady who said “Don’t worry, I’m a Democrat, but I’m going to put on the Republican name tag.” 

McManus: The administrative judge in my precinct did that! She put it on and then she looked at me and said “I hope no one shoots me for this.” 

Murphy: (laughing)

McManus: And I thought, yikes! It was also— it was also hard not to wonder who people were voting for. 

Murphy: For real…There were some weirdos. 

McManus: There was this guy— and this is neither here nor there— but he was talking to me about his surgery— 

Murphy: (laughing)

McManus: —for like, ten minutes! There was a line! And he stood there, and he was telling me about his spinal surgery— 

Murphy (still laughing): Spinal surgery?! 

McManus: —and how he couldn’t sleep, because his back hurt so bad, and I was sitting there like “Sir, I’m a poll worker…” 

Murphy: I’m not a therapist!

McManus (laughing): I’m not a therapist! There are people behind you! This is a polling place!

Murphy: You are here to vote and leave! 

McManus: Yeah…Did you have any anti-maskers in your precinct?

Murphy: No— no. I’m trying to think— we had to offer one to the guy who came in with the Trump mask and the Trump hat, but that was because he had to take his off. 

McManus: Oh.

Murphy: So no, there were no problems with masks, and I was surprised, but no. There were no problems with masks. And I registered a lot of people to vote, too. I think I registered like eleven people, twelve people. 

McManus: Wow! 

Murphy: And they were all prepared, too. They all had two forms of identification. 

McManus: It is ridiculously easy most times. 

Murphy: It is. 

McManus: Like, I’m not afraid to go vote, when I can. Did you vote? Are you eighteen?

Murphy: Yes, I voted. 

McManus: Nice! Congratulations. 

Murphy: Thank you. I got to vote in March, too. 

McManus: Right, because isn’t it— if you turn 18 before November 3 [you can vote]. 

Murphy: Yes. 

McManus: I’m just wondering— if there was suspicion and fear in Illinois, in Cook County, how it must have been in Georgia and Pennsylvania. 

Murphy: I know! Right?! I was thinking about this all day. I was thinking, I can’t imagine the [situations of] poll workers in these other states. States that probably had anti-maskers, or people insisting on wearing Trump hats or Joe Biden [merchandise]. The people who are counting the ballots right now? They have security going home with them at night. Like, in case something happens. And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, their Secret Service detail was upped because they were afraid that something was going to happen. The whole state of our country is just— 

McManus: It’s a mess!

Murphy: I know! And I can’t imagine the poll workers who had to deal with a bunch of nonsense. Like protests outside and stuff like that. 

McManus: Yes! Because my day was relatively calm, and it was still stressful. That was due to more technology issues than any one person, but if I had to deal with technology issues and people who were being non-cooperative, I think I would have cried.

Murphy: But so many people, I noticed, were very appreciative. So many people, before they left, came up to every single worker in the polling place and said “thank you for working!” [People] were very happy that there were poll workers. ⬥