Yesterday, I had the opportunity to work as an election judge for the 2020 presidental election. I decided to serve as an election judge since it was driving me crazy that I couldn't vote in this election. I wanted to find a way to make a difference and serving as an election judge was a great opportunity for me to support our democracy. Here are four things that I learned throughout my 15-hour shift:
Teamwork is key:
Setting up for Election Day was tedious and required a lot of patience (with the machines and each other). My polling place was assigned six poll workers, three of which had never worked an election before. Luckily, we had some wonderful women on our team who were experts and were extremely kind and patient throughout the entire very long process. With all of us working together, we were able to set up in time before the election, and clean up afterwards without having to stay too late.
Not everyone will have empathy, and that’s okay:
Since a plethora of devices were struggling to connect to our WiFi pod, one of our computers used to check-in voters was running very slowly throughout the entire day, causing a short waiting period for voters as the machine processed everything. The wide range in the way voters reacted amazed me. Some exercised patience and thanked us all for being volunteers, some gave into anger and insults, and some just stood quietly while the computer did its work. I quickly learned that the best way to handle upset voters was to try my best to remain empathetic and handle the situation calmly and gracefully.
Happy voters are worth it:
My favorite part of this entire experience was the excitement and joy that some people expressed while voting. Around 6 AM, right when we opened, a woman came in and did a little dance as soon as she cast her ballot. It was energizing and inspiring to see a woman at such an early time in the morning be so peppy and ecstatic to vote.
Yoga time is the best time:
At about 1 PM, after eight hours of work, since we were in a dry patch with no voters coming in, my team and I decided to do a bit of yoga. After doing yoga together, we really started getting to know each other better. Over the remaining seven hours, we talked all about school, jobs, interests, passions, fears, and spent lots of time laughing. I got a chance to learn my team’s stories, who they are, what makes them tick. I’ll forever carry with me the “breakfast club” feel I got from everyone sharing aspects of their life with people who were pretty much strangers. There was a vulnerability and genuinity to it that I’ll continue to hold on to.
Overall, this experience was one I will never forget. I learned about teamwork, how to handle certain situations, enthusiasm, and other people's perspectives. This was an incredibly valuable experience and I encourage others to try it out. If you do, you’ll most likely learn some lessons of your own that will stick with you forever.
Ania Sacks is a junior at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Ania participates in many Jewish activities such as Teen-Seed 613, RTI, Jewish Student Connection, Sunday school teaching, NFTY, and is President of her Temple youth group (OPTY). Outside of school, Ania loves to paint, write, play the violin, and explore social justice.