Residents are shown at St. Paul's Field House, 295 Stewart...

Residents are shown at St. Paul's Field House, 295 Stewart Avenue, Garden City, Oct. 26, 2020, for an early voting day. Credit: Chris Ware

Like many Americans, I was appalled to watch President Donald Trump on Thursday night as he alleged that continuing to count votes in the days after the election signifies fraudulent behavior. His baseless claims hit even harder for me, because I was a poll worker this year, and neither the system nor my fellow poll workers in East Northport would have allowed such fraud.

When I signed up to be a poll worker in September, it was not because of my hopes for a win by former Vice President Joe Biden. Something the president seems not to understand is that poll workers have no power to change the outcome of the election — even if they try. Rather, I signed up because of the coronavirus pandemic and the knowledge that, if elections are to continue, a new generation of young poll workers must step in for the at-risk cohort of seniors that has helped run our polls for years. I also rather like living in a democracy and wanted to play a role to help maintain that system.

One of the foundations of a polling system that works so well to ensure integrity and prevent fraud is bipartisan pairs. For every voter I signed in, I needed a Republican to agree that the voter’s signature at the polling place matched the voter’s legal signature. For every ballot tallied at the end of the night, another Democrat and two Republicans had to agree with me that I had counted correctly. At 5 a.m. on Election Day, I was nervous to work so closely with poll workers of the opposite party, as we disagree on so much. In fact, I was surprised to find that poll workers of both parties agree on a lot, including a common goal of holding a free and fair election.

Most important, we all strongly expressed our desire to enfranchise voters. We all shared in excitement at the end of the day that about two-thirds of the population assigned to our polling place had come to vote in person on Election Day — not even counting those who had voted early or by mail. One poll worker in his 60s expressed to me that in all elections he had worked until this one, he was one of the youngest poll workers. Now, he was among the oldest, as a wave of younger poll workers had joined the team, and he was so pleased to see a new generation getting interested in the polls.

I’m looking forward to being a poll worker again. It was amazing to be a cog in an accurate, truthful system that allows Americans to choose their leaders, even if it is one with many issues, like gerrymandering, disenfranchisement, and foreign interference. I caution Americans not to take seriously Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud. There’s no evidence of it, and his administration has offered no proof.

For anyone who wishes to make sure that elections continue to be free and fair, I encourage them to become poll workers.

Hayley Striegel of East Northport is a graduate of Cornell University. She is pursuing an MBA at the University of South Carolina and plans to become a physician.

Hayley Striegel of East Northport was a poll worker on...

Hayley Striegel of East Northport was a poll worker on Election Day in East Northport. Credit: Hayley Striegel


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