Guiding voters at the polls
By ELIZABETH CELMS
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
November 11, 2008 · Updated 3:19 PM
Creative designer for the Mercer Island Reporter and Reporter Newspapers, Melanie Morgan spent 16 hours working at the West Seattle Senior Center polling station on Nov. 4. Morgan worked as a greeter, directing Seattle voters from 13 precincts to their respective tables. The Kent resident was on site at 5:30 a.m., more than an hour before the polls opened, until nearly 10 p.m. to drop the ballots off at the depot center. Having worked at poll stations twice before, Morgan said last week’s election was the busiest she had ever seen.
Why did you decide to work the polls?
I’d worked at two polls in the past — mostly smaller, district elections — and they needed more people. I was on their list, so they contacted me.
How was the turnout?
It was really busy. I talked to close to 1,000 people. There were long lines in the morning. From 7 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. was the busiest. People were standing outside in the rain. We had about 125 people come through in just that half hour. 7 p.m. to closing [at 8 p.m.] was our slowest time. The entire day, it was a lot of work. There’s a lot that goes into the election.
Were there many young voters or people voting for the first time?
There weren’t as many young voters as I thought there would be. There was a greater turnout of middle-aged people. I was surprised how many middle-aged people there were who didn’t know how to vote. Many stated that it was their first time voting, and so they didn’t know what to do. Quite a few had just registered and had never voted before. There were also absentee voters who came in just to vote the old-fashioned way because it was the last time they could.
One person came in and said she wasn’t a citizen but wanted to vote. We had to say sorry and turn her away. I had one guy vote provisionally from Colorado.
How was the energy?
Everyone was excited. We passed out stickers and told them about getting a free drip coffee from Starbucks. Everyone was really happy with the turnout. Random people would come in just to see who was voting. I was glad I could be part of this historic election.
What is your opinion on closing down the poll booths?
I’m 50-50 on this. It will cut down on some paperwork, and the [county] won’t have to pay the poll workers. But there were a lot of people disappointed that they couldn’t vote this way in another election. The whole social aspect of it will be missed. I got thanked a lot, too, while I was working. People wanted to bring us coffee and food. Everybody was very appreciative.