On Thursday I worked as a poll supervisor for Elections Ontario. I have joined election teams for the last couple provincial and federal elections. I cannot fully explain my enthusiasm for working election days. The days are long and mentally exhausting, and yet strangely rewarding and enlightening.
To be a poll official is to spend a day devoted to serving your neighbours — and a day focused on the technical challenges that arise when serving so many fellow citizens in a friendly and efficient way.
Elections are political. The act of voting tends to stir convictions with cortisol. When my focus is on my ballot, my attention is wrapped up with ‘my side’ winning the election. But the work of elections staff is very different: it is all about neutrality, accountability, and customer service. Assuming this role makes for an entirely different way to experience and participate in an election. ‘Winning,’ for a poll official, means making democratic participation as accessible as it can be for as many people as possible.
I think everyone who lives in a democracy should try serving their compatriots at the polls. Try it at least once in your lifetime. The concern for elections staff is executing the practical logistical requirements of a functioning democracy, and in this context you find yourself working alongside people of every political ‘colour’ who come together and set everything aside to get a job done.