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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here's One for Chuck... and the Nation!

When I found out I received Chuck’s name I was delighted. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I know that Chuck loves politics and people who know me know that I can't stand it. I figured this would be a great way to serve Chuck by participating in my community, not only by voting in the 2010 General Election, but by researching the candidates and propositions for myself.

Voting for Dummies???

Then one Sunday during priesthood opening exercises, one of the members announced that they were looking for volunteers. My ears immediately stopped listening because: one, I am just so tired on Sundays, and two, these volunteer activities usually happen on the weekends when I am working or sleeping. Then I heard that this particular activity was going to be on a Tuesday (one of my days off). I forced myself to listen and I heard that the Church was looking for members to volunteer to be Poll Workers in the upcoming General Election. At that moment, I realized that I was going to be a Poll Worker for my service this year.

I got the information that I needed to be a poll worker and signed up online. I performed the required 45 minute online training and the 45 minute hands-on training at the local registrar’s office. After filling out a few more things online, I was all set to work as a polling clerk at the Irvine Civic Center (City Hall) on Tuesday, November 2nd 2010. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into.

Welcome to City Hall!

My Poll Worker Experience

I arrived promptly at City Hall at 6:00am with Poll Worker Handbook in hand. Ed, my elderly poll inspector, was there starting to get set up. I helped him get the supplies out of his car and bring them into the polling room. At this point there was only Ed, a Chinese woman named Fanny and myself. There were a total of 4 other workers that showed up at some point during the day. You’ve probably heard of the movie Grumpy Old Men. Well, I caught the live show that morning. We started to help Ed get everything unpacked when a semi-elderly man named Frank came into the room who announced himself as the Area Lead. He was very intent on talking to Ed alone and invited him into the hallway when Ed replied, “NO, I don’t want to talk to you! I’ve worked at this polling place before and this isn’t how I want it set up and I’m in charge here!” Apparently these guys had talked to each other before and it didn’t go well. After several attempts to get Ed to talk to him in the hall Frank warned him that if he didn’t cooperate that he would be sent home. Since Ed wouldn’t comply, Frank exclaimed, “Ed… You’re FIRED!” Ed replied, “GOOD, You’re doing me a favor!” and took off. All of a sudden, we were left without an Inspector!

aka: Irvine Civic Center

There was another man named Frank (yeah I know it’s confusing) who was the assistant to the other Frank. He was there to help us get everything set up in the little time that we had before the Polls opened as well as fill in as our inspector until we could get a new one. I was glad that I could remember a lot of my training because I was going to have to use it, A LOT. We got everything set up and there were about 10 people in line when the polls opened and no one knew how to do their job. I started teaching everyone how to do their job while Frank worked the electronic machine and we were on our way.

Right off the bat we started to have some complicated situations. The first few voters were not on the list and were complaining to us that they should be because they were on the list 2 years ago. We ended up figuring out that the precincts had been redrawn and a lot of the people that were on the list two years ago were now at a different polling place. There were a lot of complications like this throughout the day.

The Polling Place (I'm helping the guy in the red shirt)

Frank needed to leave to check on some other polling places just as our new inspector arrived. After Frank was gone I started to ask the new “inspector” some questions about different procedures and such and she kind of just gave me a blank stare. That’s when I realized that I would pretty much be taking over as inspector. For about the first 3-4 hours our inspector just handed out “I voted” stickers. I continued to help everyone with their jobs while explaining to voters why their names weren’t on the list and helping them find out where to go or how to fill out a provisional voter envelope. During the slow periods I scrambled to read the handbook to find out how to run the place.


Throughout the day the workers would take their lunch break and the inspector would take over for them while they were gone. I found out at one point that she was processing voters incorrectly and had to teach her, "The Inspector", how to do her job. Part of the job of inspector included checking all of the machines to make sure they weren’t tampered with. I was the clerk in charge of double checking the machines. I notice that she forgot one and called her over to check it when she tripped over the power cord connected to the polling machines, and everything went dead! We had to restart everything! And all the people in the booths were saying things like, “Hey, what happened!” “Oh no, is all my stuff gone?!” “Am I going to have to start all over?” It was crazy! Luckily assistant lead Frank was there to help us out of that Jam, but we had to pull everyone off the machines and it was a mess. We duct taped down the cords so that it wouldn’t happen again.

Me helping this gentleman fine his precinct and polling place.

We got through the rest of the day without any more major incidents but it got really busy from about 6:00pm until 8:00pm when the polls closed. When it was busy I would walk through the check-in line and ask to see if anyone had any questions so that I could find the people that needed to fill out paper work or go to another polling place. After the polls closed we had to clean everything up in a very organized manor and count all of the ballots before packaging them back up. We put away all of the e-booths and cardboard booths, counted all of the extra ballots, and did some accounting of ballots and stuff like that. This process took about 2 hours after which the inspector and I had to escort the ballots to the collection site. I finally arrived home at about 10:45pm.

I am very thankful for the spirit of service which helped me through the day. I was able to step outside my comfort zone and talk to everyone coming to vote so that I could help them to have a good experience.

Chuck, I’ve sent you a commemorative pin (shown below) that I received for being a poll worker for the Orange County Statewide General Election as a memento of this service. Wear it proud!

Merry Christmas Chuck


  1. Great story Ryan. But seriously scary. I am moving back to Canada. I assume that is where Ed went. Also, you failed to mention your additional service of donating your hair to locks of love.

  2. Ryan that story was awesome! I have to say I have been really impressed with the service Ryan has done the last two years you can tell he goes out of his way to do something meaningful for the person he has. I have been impressed by the way he has gone out of his comfort zone. Great job.

  3. The story was good when he told it to us in person- but possibly even better in reading it! Ry- you ROCK and Christmas service! I am so proud of you for going out of your comfort zone for the love of others. I love the Ed and Frank stories. I just wish you could all see Ry talk about the "replacement inspector" in person. I LOVE a good Ryan story. Perfect service for Chuck! Good work Ry

  4. Unbelievable service Ryan! I can't believe you were there ALL day. I was laughing so hard reading this.

  5. Chuck's running commentary:

    Sentence 1: Dang! Ryan got me?!?! This is going to make me feel even more guilty for not doing better last year when I had him. Ok, bring on the guilt.

    Paragraph 1: I am totally crying... Ryan was a poll worker! What a terrific service. I bet he was the only one there that was both under 65 and a college graduate.

    Frank comes in: LOL! He fired him! Hilarious!

    Irvine City Hall: A perfect location for this! My first memory of feeling a desire to get involved in government was during a City Council meeting in (what was then) the brand new Irvine City Hall during a Boy Scout visit.

    Re-drawn districts: Ah... you have to love voters who don't read their mail.

    The new inspector: Yes, the most crucial task that most poll workers consider as their purpose is to give out those "I voted" stickers. Glad to see they had a college educated young fella to turn to. Too bad she probably still got the bonus inspector pay.

    Inspector Trip at your service: Seriously, if this chicky is still around, what did Ed do to get fired?

    6 AM to 10:45 PM: The wheels of democracy move slowly, but hey, you earned a whopping $100!

    Commemorative Pin: Awesome! It will become one of my most prized items in my political pins collection. (That is not a joke, I really have one.)

    Ryan, that was absolutely TERRIFIC! Thank you so very much.

  6. Ryan…I LOVED this service! So wonderful! You have caught the spirit I wished for when I suggested this last year. Such a great story and such a great experience! What an inspiration!

  7. I'm exhausted just reading it. Great thing on your day off!

  8. Ok, so my husband was SO CUTE doing his service! I was so proud of him thinking of this project all by himself! When we went and visited him he was so busy! The poor guy only got a 1 hour lunch break during the day... and then finally when we came, he got 10 minutes out in the hall to eat the dinner we brought him. You would have thought he had been doing this for years by the way people were calling after him and asking him what to do! (esp. the inspector...goodness!)
    Way to go babe! I'm super proud of you!

  9. I haven't made any other comments as an outsider, even though you have all inspired me...but this one I couldn't let pass. I waited in line to vote for over a half hour, and as I turned the corner and entered the actual voting room they had "one" person checking the voters in. I about went nuts. For years I have said, "oh, next time I'm going to get in there and help get this organized" as I think of all the wasted hours of the many hundreds of people waiting in line just at my precinct, let alone the city, county, state and nation. So Ryan, you have inspired me to check out how to help, and do it!