If you ever decide you might want to run for a local town or school office, go for it! Because, let me tell you, our local citizens will not let you down.
Earlier this year my government teacher at school was talking about the upcoming election on April 9 because we were learning about the election process. With everyone around 18 years of age in my class, we needed to know about registering to vote, precincts, polling places and everything else that goes with it.
From this lesson an opportunity arose; polling places are often looking for people to work on election days, and the pay is decent, so I decided it might be worth a shot.
I emailed our county clerk shortly after, and she responded enthusiastically with several openings in some of our surrounding towns. Within the week, my friend and I got signed up to work the April 9 elections for Berlin Township in Malden.
Let me tell you ... 3:30 a.m. came mighty early that Tuesday morning, but we were expected to be at the polling place by 5:15 a.m., so I drug myself out of bed and prepared for the big day.
At 6 a.m. we had everything set up to begin the day, and our first few voters walked in the door within the minute. My first job was at the computer. It contained the name of every person eligible to vote in Berlin Township, so as they trickled in, I looked them up, checked their ballot style and marked them to vote.
I was surprised 6:30 a.m. rolled around quickly, and after a few flickers trembling through the lights, our electricity suddenly decided to leave us in the dark. Of course that would happen my first time working the polls! Fear not, though, the Malden fire station next door was quick on the spot! In less than 10 minutes, they had us set up with a cord from their generator to power our voting machine, and they even supplied us with several lights to illuminate our all important location. After a few difficulties, we were back on track in our romantically lit township building.
A town-wide power outage didn’t stop us, and it didn’t stop anyone else either. The people continued to come in and cast their votes by flashlight, showing dedication to their township.
Our numbers were surprisingly high as we headed through the day with a count over 100 by noon. I got to meet a few young, new voters, and many devoted returners, several whose names I was very familiar with through my family but had never put a face to.
Each and every one came in with their own stories and trials they were facing, but none of them failed to give me a smile and a warm welcome, even though they didn’t always know me.
Some were full of jokes and excitement, and others were quieter; but all of them were kind, respectful and doing their best to support their friends and family running for the local positions. I loved learning about all of the different people, connecting how I knew some of them, and seeing their cheerful faces that kept us going through our 14-hour day.
I was very impressed by the close connections all of the people shared, and the commitment they had to get their vote in to elect the people they wanted to be in charge of their community. Our local leaders make decisions that affect us every day in our towns and schools, so it’s important we stand behind the people who deserve our vote. In every part of the day the people never failed to show me the importance they placed behind the elections.
Working the polls takes patience with the long hours and monotonous work, but I know for sure that it was worth my time for all of the things that I learned, the wonderful people I met, and the support and dedication I witnessed right within the little town of Malden.
All of that encompasses my idea of community, and after spending my whole day working the elections, I know that many of our fellow neighbors in Bureau County share a cooperative spirit that aims to make their corner of the world a better place to live.
Danae Ross, 17, of Wyanet is a senior at Bureau Valley High School She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.