By Nancy Covert
Oval-shaped stickers in patriotic colors, bearing the words “I VOTED,” were attached to lapels, jacket fronts and T-shirts of dozens of voters as they exited numerous “in person” polling sites on Nov. 2.
These “badges of honor” were distributed to voters at local polling sites—such as the one operated at the polling site off Main Street in the Steilacoom Public Safety building.
“We had 504 voters come through Tuesday,” said Poll Inspector Joe Lewis. Lewis and three additional poll judges operated the community site. A similar site is operated at Chloe Clark Elementary School in DuPont. Places such as these are set up throughout the county to serve voters who want to cast their votes in person.
Yesterday’s turnout, he added, “was about what they expected.” Many voters showed up between 3-6 p.m.
While Pierce County is the last hold-out for this seemingly archaic method of exercising one’s freedom, those who did so yesterday hope it’s not the last time they’ll be able to vote in person.
There’s concern that in the next election the county may join the rest of the state and eliminate poll voting altogether, Lewis said.
“I don’t know what will happen,” says the man who’s worked at the Steilacoom site since 2004 (He first became an election judge in 2001, moving to the area after retiring from the Air Force).
“We’re volunteers, although we are paid minimum wage for our time.” They’re also on the job from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.
The majority of state voters mail their ballots, citing “convenience” as the main reason for doing so. Lewis added that many of the east coast states continue to use in-person voting as opposed to mail-in ballots.
For “die-hards” such as the 500+ Steilacoom voters it’s a tradition they prefer. And most of those who vote in person, Lewis explained, prefer a paper ballot as opposed to using the touch-screen device. The latter process actually takes longer to complete since, once the choices have been made, there’s a delay while the votes are tallied and a printout made.
When the poll closes, and the last paper ballot has been placed into the square-ish, R-2-D-2 like machine, an election official removes the counter and delivers it to Election headquarters.
“People have said they enjoy coming to the Public Safety facility—Public Safety has been a good host to us over the years. It’s clean, well lighted, spacious, and there’s plenty of parking.
Even so, “it was a good, long day. We all were tired by the end.”
The polling place tradition provides an opportunity for neighbors to see one another, to linger after voting to chat, and to experience community.
“It’s a great American tradition.”