Go, Edith, go!

Where were YOU on Worcester preliminary election day?

By Edith Morgan

On Tuesday, September 8, I got up at 5 a.m., an unusually early hour for me, as I am a “night owl” and like to read before going to sleep. But on this particular Tuesday, I was at my assigned post by 6 a.m., ready to begin my fifteen-hour day as Warden of my precinct.

As soon as George, the policeman assigned to my precinct, arrives, a flurry of activity takes place: he has the new voting machine, the ballots, the keys, and the know-how to get it all started – he has been with me at this precinct for more years than I can count.

This year for the first time, I wait anxiously for his arrival, as he is usually here before me. When he arrives, he tells me that this year, instead of making five deliveries to other precincts, he had to make TEN, before doing the opening “ceremonies” at 6 a.m. – a great rush between 5 and 6 a.m.

Our “clerk” is there at 6 a.m. also, and by 6:30 our four inspectors are due: this year unfortunately, one of them is ill, and we call to see if she will be replaced, and when.

Every one of Worcester’s 50 precincts is staffed the same way: a clerk, a warden, six inspectors, a policeman. The inspectors and clerk and warden represent a balance of democrats, republicans, and unenrolled registered voters, even though the primaries are nonpartisan. There is still some confusion on the part of some voters, as many years ago if you were not affiliated with any political party you were an “independent”, but when an Independent Party was formed, that category was called “unenrolled”.
This year, as always, we had to attend a training session, to be reminded of the rules and regulations, informed of changes if there were any, and to ask any questions we might have.

The real excitement this year was the demonstration of our new voting machines – after 25 years of the old ones, some of which were getting rather tired and moody, it was great to see how they worked, and how much easier it would be to get the final tally when the polls closed at 8 p..m. These machines are “smarter” than our old ones: unlike the past ones, which could only recognize the special black pen markings in the tiny oval, now we give each voter a ball-point pen to keep after using it to mark their ballot – and a sticker to wear when they go back home (maybe as a reminder to the many non-voters they should vote also?) . These new machines are smart enough to read pencil marks too!!!

A small screen continuously demonstrates how to feed in your ballot, records the number of votes cast so far, and in a few seconds thanks the voter. If there is an “overvote” (meaning that the voter has marked too many names in any column) the machine refuses the ballot until the voter either decides to re-do the ballot or allows the machine to record only those votes correctly marked. So, if you don’t want t o do the whole ballot over (you’re in a hurry?) it will count only the part of your ballot that was correctly marked.

I went through the rather detailed explanation above to show our readers that much are and thought have gone into making the entire process as accurate, quick, and pleasant as possible.

Our preliminary election was a good time to inaugurate Worcester’s new machines, as primaries are usually light, so there are no long lines and we have time to explain if need be, and to observe if there are any tough spots.

Our ballot was not very long: the left column held the names of the candidates for councilors-at-large, from which the voter was asked to select up to six names. They were free to select any number up to six, but no more.

Some voters chose to “bullet” their ballot, meaning that they would vote for only their very favorite(s). The column on the right was empty in all but District 2 ballots, where there were four names that had to be whittled down to two for November 3rd, to fill the seat to be vacated by Phil Palmieri.

After the votes were counted, twelve candidates will be on next Tuesday’s ballot for the Worcester at-large city council seats: Mayor Joe Petty, Konstantina Lukes, Kathleen Toomey, Michael Gaffney, Morris Bergman, and Matthew Wally were the top six, in that order; rounding out the twelve were Juan Gomez, Robert Sargent, Khrystian King, Christina Zlody, Bill Coleman and Linda Parham. Unfortunately, three candidates did not make the cut: Carmen Carmona, Ronald O’Clair and George Fox III. Phil Palmieri decided to drop out of the at large race (bumping up Linda Parham).

In the District 2 race, Candy Mero-Carlson and Jennithan Cortes will also go on to next Tuesday’s ballot.