I have two religions.
The first is Judaism. The second is democracy.
The first celebrates its High Holy Days on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The High Holy Days of Democracy are election days.
This year there will be two statewide elections, August 2 and November 8. This year I will be celebrating these holy days by working for the City of Birmingham as an Election Inspector.
In November 2018, I worked my first election as an Election Inspector. The energy of the day was amazing. Around 800 voters came through the precinct. With a lengthy ballot, at points all 34 voting stations were filled. We each took our role, directing voters to fill out the application to vote, entering them into the electronic poll book, explaining the ballot and reminding voters that it was two-sided, running back and forth with the privacy covers. I ended up working the help desk for much of the day, assisting voters who had come to the wrong precinct or had problems with their registration. The day was long and exhausting, but also exhilarating.
Each election is a bit different. I now chair the precinct. We have been through municipal elections with a single item on the ballot. We have been through multiple COVID elections. We have seen the law change to allow same-day registration of voters. We have seen increases in access to absentee voting.
But each election day, I will be anxiously awaiting my neighbors who come to visit me. I will look forward to the babies in strollers and children looking for their Future Voter stickers. I will greet the high schoolers coming for their first election and the centurions who may have helped Truman defeat Dewey.
Over these years, there have been plenty of rewarding moments, but my favorite occurred a few weeks after the 2020 election. Due to the pandemic, many of the election inspectors at my precinct had taken the cycle off. I had a great group of mostly new inspectors. The day went wonderfully. We were efficient. We were citizen-focused. We were diligent in every aspect of our jobs. We closed out our polls, the books balanced — the number of voters and the number of ballots were the same — and we were done.
In the aftermath of the election, as allegations of voter fraud and worse were flying, my cell phone rang. It was one of the new election inspectors. He was a Republican. And there — in the ugliness of the aftermath — he called me to say how thankful he was for the experience of election day. If it hadn’t been for working as an inspector, he said he may have believed some of the allegations. But he saw the process. He knew how many steps we went through before handing out a ballot. He knew all the checks and balances.
I cannot say whether or not democracy became a religion for him. I hope he experienced the sacredness of the day — the joy of greeting the voters as they come to perform this holy ritual.
Don’t take my word for it. Join me on August 2 or November 8 or both. See how the process works. See the dedication of the election inspectors and absentee voting boards and receiving boards and city clerks. Meet the people who will greet hundreds of voters and process their ballots to ensure a free and fair election. Maybe you might even find holiness in the experience.
To sign up as an election inspector, go to https://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1633_11976_98803---,00.html or any city clerk’s webpage.