Election Workers

August 2016: Lynn and I at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, dropping off my candidacy petitions for State Board of Education.

At a time when people are waiting–patiently or not–for election returns from a few key states, this seems a good time to mention election workers.

For several years, our mother was a Republican election judge. Each party had to have three (I think) judges at the polling place. Since this was in Chicago, the Democrats had the only party apparatus in our area, and the task of recruiting the Republican judges fell to Tally Giaccone, the Democratic precinct captain.1 It wasn’t until later, when I began to have my own experiences with elections workers, that I really began to appreciate the work that they do, and how important our bipartisan election system is.

Beyond the people staffing their polling places, few voters ever interact with our elections apparatus and the people who make it work. I’ve had the opportunity, and it has been pretty inspiring.

As near as I can remember, I’ve been on the ballot six times.2 Four of those races were in Democratic primaries, and two were for public office. For all of them, I needed to visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. For one of them, I needed to work with the Secretary of State’s office, which, as the name implies, serves as the main election office for the state.

Back when I was working for NEOEA, I frequently contacted our eleven county boards of elections and the Secretary of State’s office to research school levies, political boundaries, and electoral schedules.

In every case, I have found these folks to be dedicated public servants. They don’t seem to care what party I belong to, and it doesn’t seem to matter what administration is in power: they have been as helpful as could be.

These folks make it their mission to make the system work for all of us. Candidates (most, anyway) are patriots.3 Running for office is hard, and these folks try to make it as positive as it can be. Even when you’re running for a relatively minor position, they give you professional attention and make you feel like your race is the most important one they have to deal with.

In this election year, these folks have gotten a lot of attention; and in some states, they are getting a lot of pressure. They are the unsung heroes of American democracy. Eventually we will get past the present electoral suspense, and one reason will be the dedication of local and state election workers.


  1. Some years later I served as his Republican counterpart–Tally was still there. You can imagine the surprise at the few Republican households when a high school junior wearing a flag lapel pin knocked on their doors and introduced himself as their new Republic precinct captain!
  2. I haven’t been notably successful: I’ve won three elections and lost three.
  3. I know, politicians are supposed to be rapacious cretins. But the system starts at the bottom, with people running for city council, or school board, or party central committee. If you want to improve the system, stop whining and run for something.

Author: StgCoach

Retired teacher and public education leader. Pastoral musician, community activist, parliamentarian, and photographer.