Columns

Some thoughts about working in today’s election

by Denise Dykstra

Tuesday, Aug. 2, we can take ourselves to our area precincts and cast our votes in our state primary election.

Some years ago, I was asked by our township clerk if I would like to be an election worker. I had never even considered it, but when she asked I answered “yes” so fast! It was as if she had asked me to do something I had unknowingly wanted to do all my life! I thought it would be fun to talk with all the people as they came in to vote, and it would be interesting to see another side of an election.

While I made a horrible history student remembering dates and timelines, I did love the stories. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was always drawn to the stories of history when the women fought for other women’s right to vote. When I think of how hard they fought for the later generations, I get all choked up.

When I think back to the Founding Fathers and what they gave up when they took a stand for freedom and laid out a government of the people for the people, I still get goosebumps.

To become an election worker, I had to get some training, which nearly made me want to not become an election worker! There is so much to do to make sure that the elections are done correctly, I wasn’t sure if I could remember it all. But once I got to work at the election, I fell in love with it all. I love our voting process all the more after working and seeing the behind the scenes.

Here in Allegan County, we are blessed to have a great county clerk in Bob Genetski and he has an amazing team (if Jenn Tien says she is on it, you are guaranteed whatever it is it is going to be looked into and taken care of). The work they do to help elections is nothing less than monumental. They are available and willing to help any township at the drop of a hat. They have impressed me over and over again.

These last few years, the feel of the elections has changed. Improper reporting from news outlets, polling places blatantly breaking the law and not being prosecuted, and what feels like a divided nation on nearly every topic has made elections seem hostile.

Personally, I have been screamed at, had hats thrown at me, been accused of things I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, and questioned if the election work I am doing is even legal.

To all these people, I wish they would take the classes we take to work the elections. I wish they would see the hours we put into doing our very best to follow all the ever-changing laws of elections (sometimes rules change by the week or even day). We are human so we will make mistakes, but the overall desire of the team that works the elections with me is to do the very best job we can do.

After the last election when I was screamed at and our township was inundated with calls of vague and pointed complaints (apparently I was dressed “too patriotic” in my white dress and flag scarf and the complaint was I was offensive in my dress), I was shaken. Part of me wanted to crawl into a corner and cry, part of me wanted to jump on a table and shout what a privilege it is to vote and it was time to remember that. Instead, I plastered a smile on my face and kept doing my job, helping the people in my township get the opportunity to vote. Legally. Following the rules and regulations we had been given.

Denise Dykstra

A woman came in that day to vote. She handed me her license with no complaint. She smiled kindly at me. “I heard what happened here today. No one should have done that to you. Bless you for what you are doing today.” I didn’t know this woman. Her kindness pierced my heart and it buoyed me through that day.

Nothing makes election workers feel more appreciated when they are thanked. It makes my heart burst with gratitude when our local Clippers Cafe says not only will they make us all lunch, it is on the house for the job we do. During the day, we have people stop in and ask us if we need snacks or coffee, and bless them, we always do! We live in a great community.

I love elections. I appreciate that we have the right to vote. I am floored that something set up years ago is still a process that works long after it was constructed and still runs this great country. I am brought to tears thinking of all those who sacrificed so much so we would have this right. I am cheering for all of my teammates who are helping run elections all over this amazing and diverse country. I am truly honored that I get a small part of this process.

While I am not blind to the bad, to those who have tried to break the system and cheat the people, I still feel that this country is filled with people who love it, and want the election process, and what it was constructed to do in the job of building a country of the people for the people.

We have such a privilege in our opportunity to vote. Please don’t pass it up. This primary is as huge as the general election in November. The election workers you see at your voting precinct have put hours of work and training in before they arrived that morning at six am to work until the election day is done…for us, it’s usually around 10 p.m. or later when we finally have our job completed. We have given up time at work and time with our family to come do the best job we can possible do to make sure the election process goes smoothly. It’s our own personal votes we are working to protect just as hard as we work to protect your vote.

So, Tuesday go and vote between the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Smile and thank an election worker. And if you want to know more about the election process, talk to your clerk and become an election worker. I hope it opens your eyes and causes you to love this country even more as it has done for me.

2 Comments

  • Ms. Dykstra, thank you for your service and dedication as an elections worker, and for sharing your experiences with us! You and your coworkers are heroes who deserve our deepest gratitude, respect, and support. The derision you’ve occasionally had to endure from a few ignorant losers in our midst is both tragic and outrageous. Please keep smiling, keep up the great work in service to our country, and know that you are very much appreciated.

Leave a Reply to Denise Dykstra X