Activities before and after an Election

Last Updated:   11/6/22  00:43

The following describes some of what we Precinct Officials do to support an election in Precinct 19-19. This mainly covers things done before Election Day and things done after the polls close on Election Day. It does not cover the standard tasks to open the polls, handle voters during Election Day, and close the polls, all of which are covered in detail in the BOE documents. This is written from my perspective as the current 19-19 Chief Judge to help future 19-19 Chief Judges.

Establishing Contact with All Parties   (usually about two months before the election)

When I get the initial list of prospective 19-19 Precinct Officials in the Chief Judge Packet, I send each Official an introductory email. In it I tell them to notify both me and the BOE if they become unavailable for the election, remind them about signing up for classes, ask if they have any task preferences or constraints about what they can do, warn they should monitor their email spam/junk folders for messages from the BOE and Chief Judge, propose a Monday Setup time, and note anything unique about the upcoming election. This email has links to reference material on my website, e.g., things to know about Sanford Creek Elementary School (SCES), our polling place. I list multiple ways to contact me later if they ever have questions; I note caveats and preferences for the various contacting methods.

This introductory email also tests whether emailing works in both directions between me and the Officials. Sometimes it does not; that problem has to be detected and corrected ASAP. In the email I ask for a quick response. Often I have to make follow-up phone calls days later to reach the non-responders and then determine why they had not responded, e.g., did the email go into an unchecked spam/junk folder?

I update the Chief Judge Portal as each Precinct Official responds. After everyone has been contacted (one way or another) and if there are no objections to the proposed Monday Setup time, I post the time on the BOE website.

While waiting for responses from the Precinct Officials, I email my contacts at SCES to be sure everything will be as expected at the school on Monday Setup and Election Day for the specified times. As soon as a Coordinator is assigned to our precinct, I send the Coordinator the introductory email I had sent to the Precinct Officials.

If an assigned Official later drops out, I make sure the BOE Staffing Team is aware of the change. When new Officials are added, I send them the introductory email I had sent to the initial set of Officials.

Making Assignments and Doing Final Preparations   (usually a few days before the election)

Hopefully by the Friday or Saturday before the election, the list of Precinct Officials has stabilized. I then send the current set of Precinct Officials an email with details about proposed assignments. I make the assignments based on their training, past experience, preferences/constraints they have noted, and my attempt to balance the workload. The assignments email covers their Monday Setup assignments, their initial (and potential later) Election Day assignments, and the areas they will handle when we pack up after the election.

The initial assignments for Election Day are specified so people know what material they should definitely reread before Election Day to be ready to start with no hiccups when the polls open. Of course later in the day, we will be moving people around to broaden their experience. By then it is easier to go to a different position because they will have seen how others have been doing the work there.

The assignments email also describes any important changes that might have occurred after the introductory email. It notes the "kitchen" facilities we will have available at SCES and lists any weather concerns.

Around this time I finish preparing material for the election, e.g., printing signs and other files, putting together folders with material for several stations, and packing miscellaneous items, e.g., my coffee machine and its supplies, masking tape, office supplies, tools, a rug to cover a tripping hazard, and LED lights for a key direction sign that can be hard to see when it gets dark in fall elections (that part of the school grounds is not well lit).

The Chief Judge must do a lot of hauling in his/her car. The weekend before the election I pick up a load of election material at the BOE Operations Center. This includes the Tabulator, ballots, ATVs, CJ Binder and Supply Bag, mobile phone, PPE, and precinct-specific items (eight cones in our case). For security reasons, when I get home that has to be moved into my house. Just before Monday Setup, I get the pollbooks and laptop(s) from the current pickup/dropoff site for our precinct. On Tuesday morning, the ballots and Tabulator get moved back to my car for delivery to the polling place. On Tuesday night all this election material is supposed to be returned to the dropoff site by a specified deadline. If I cannot deliver by that deadline, I return the material to the BOE Operations Center in Raleigh.

There are many BOE and JGK (<= me) items to bring to the election. Some stay at my house until Tuesday morning while others go to SCES for Monday Setup and stay there overnight. Others go to SCES for setup and come back home Monday night. Then those and the remainder go to SCES Tuesday morning. I have a "Bring" list to help keep this straight for all the items.

Some Challenges with Our Polling Place

Sanford Creek Elementary School (SCES) has been an excellent polling place, but it presents some challenges, as most polling places do. The most significant are summarized in this section and our current solutions are given in the following sections.

SCES is on the edge of our precinct, a good distance from where many 19-19 voters live. It's on a road that probably is unfamiliar to many voters -- a winding road with a couple of gotcha entrances and driveways that can mislead drivers into making bad turns.

The main SCES parking lot, which is not visible from the road, has lanes that must loop back and forth several times to handle "carpool" pickups/dropoffs of students. This twisting path can be a problem, especially if voters (particularly curbside voters) come at the wrong time of day and must then carefully ease thru the narrow space beside the very long, looping carpool line while trying to park/unpark in the main lot or while trying to reach the distant curbside area.

Finally, our voting enclosure is the school's Media Center. It has literally tons of furniture which we must rearrange to make space for voters, for the voting equipment, and for the standard tables for Precinct Officials. Fortunately, most of the furniture is on wheels. This includes FOURTEEN bookcases, each of which is six feet long, four feet high, and two feet wide. Each bookcase is loaded with books in shelves on both sides. They are by far the heaviest items we must move (hundreds of pounds, especially when full of books), requiring two or three strong people to move each one. This picture shows one side of two of the fourteen bookcases; part of the second bookcase extends beyond the picture. There are also many large tables to move -- most we use for the election; some we do not. When the election is over, all the furniture must be put back as it had been before Monday Setup. In particular the order, placement, and orientation of the bookcases is very important for the library.

Directing Voters to and around SCES

In part to address "Where is the 19-19 polling place?" and "How can I avoid the SCES carpool line?", we have the Information Mainly for Precinct 19-19 Voters web page. I post a link to it on the Nextdoor social network website a couple of months before Election Day and then again a few days before Election Day. These posts are for 28 local "Nextdoor neighborhoods" and should cover most 19-19 voters, at least those who use Nextdoor. In addition to general election information, this page has warning notes about the SCES carpool times, as well as various maps and diagrams to help drivers find SCES and then maneuver around the main SCES parking lot. It also notes two nearby alternate parking lots, which are associated with the Town of Rolesville park adjacent to SCES.

On the Monday morning before Election Day, I set up a number of signs along Granite Falls Blvd. to steer voters to the right school entrance, away from the gotcha entrances/driveways. I have to set up these signs before Monday Setup because it would be too late to do that at or after Setup. Many of the signs are far from SCES and would be in dark, hazardous places during/after Setup. Also, it would be impossible to gather all the signs Tuesday night to return to the BOE at that time, so I retrieve them Wednesday morning. To handle these timing problems, the BOE has agreed to let me keep this set of signs in my garage between elections. I clean and oil the H-frame rods after each election; otherwise they tend to rust from being planted in damp soil.

I have created some additional signs for outside and inside the building.

To guide our Officials in curbside setup, we have this diagram: SCES Curbside and Accessible Parking Areas. Because the looping carpool line with its two-way traffic is right beside the curbside area, curbside management requires a good deal of attention. A simplified diagram shows the route we want curbside voters to take. BOE has supplied us with a number of signs to help direct voters around the final loop. We also now give each curbside voter a handout to warn about carpool lines, noting how to find the current times to avoid. It also has a diagram to emphasize the proper entry to the curbside area.

A number of the bulky signs used for curbside are unique to our polling place. The BOE lets me store them in my garage between elections. This is much more efficient than having them stored at the Operations Center, then picked up by me at Supply Pickup, then returned Tuesday night, to say nothing of the fact that they would not fit in my car with everything else I need to haul Tuesday night.

Furniture Rearrangement in the SCES Media Center

Usually about a week before the election I meet with the SCES Library Media Center Specialist and update a diagram showing the school's current normal furniture arrangement, i.e., how she wants us to restore things after the election. The normal arrangement changes from time to time, so the diagram needs to be verified/updated before each election.

During Monday Setup we rearrange things per the appropriate voting enclosure layout: layout for large election or layout for small election. Here's the large-election layout with some key measurements shown. Furniture moving is a big part of the Monday Setup process. Then after the polls close we move everything back per the restoration (normal furniture arrangement) diagram. The bookcases are numbered to help us get them in the right order; also, they must be oriented correctly since there is a different category of books on each side of each bookcase.

Packing Up after the Election

Packing up after the election is complicated and hectic. There are very many BOE and JGK items that must be gathered from the SCES Media Center and its Break Room and from the main and alternate parking lots. It all must be properly organized so everything will eventually end up where it should, either to stay at SCES for the BOE movers, or to be put into the right place in my car for either delivery to the BOE dropoff site or to my home. It is important to keep the dropoff items together in the car so they can be accessed easily at the dropoff site. All this sorting and packing has to be done quickly to get everything done in time to meet the dropoff site's deadline. I ask one of our most experienced Officials to coordinate the packup while I and the two Judges are tied up doing the post-election administrative work with the Tabulator, ballots, forms, etc. We have a detailed packing up checklist for this process.

In the Days after the Election

Wednesday morning I retrieve the direction signs I had put out along Granite Falls Blvd. and any other BOE signs I will store in my garage. I'll later do any repairs needed and clean the signs, primarily removing dirt and rust from the rods and putting some WD-40 on them to prevent further rust. If something cannot be repaired, before the next election I'll go to the BOE Operations Center to get a replacement.

Right after the election I start work on the postmortem report. This includes creating a Google Photos album, which mainly contains photos I took after Monday Setup to record the latest polling place configuration. I add explanatory text for each photo. A complete postmortem draft is usually finished within a couple of days after the election. I then send the draft to all the Precinct Officials and our Coordinator for corrections and additions. By early the week after the election, the postmortem is finalized. I then upload it to my website and notify the BOE that it is available for them.

The postmortem not only reports what happened in the current election, but also makes suggestions about changes we might make to improve things in the next election.

From right after the election and thru canvass, I update files on my website with various election statistics as they become available.

Archived Material

All the above files and much more about recent/current and past elections are in the BOE section of my website. For example, there are my preparation task list, postmortem reports, comments on BOE documents, photos of the voting enclosure and the curbside area, election statistics, and portfolios of my signs and BOE signs.

I have found it very helpful to use online lists, diagrams, photos, etc., to organize the Chief Judge work and to make information available to the Precinct Officials, our Coordinator, the BOE Staff, and the Precinct 19-19 voters. Having these files also makes it easier to recall how past elections were handled when preparing for the next one.

Jeff Knauth
Chief Judge for Precinct 19-19