Town clerk, poll workers prepare for Election Day

Oct 28, 2022

As the 2022 midterm elections inch closer, Town Clerk Sarah Arruda says her office and dozens of eager volunteers are ready for whatever situations may arise come Nov. 8.

Recently, Arruda held an orientation session with a group of the volunteers — something she said she has done prior to every election since taking office prior to the 2020 primary.

“This is my third time doing it this year,” she said. “There’s always some nuance or something has changed [since the last election].”

As part of the session, Arruda went over the basics of what workers will do on Election Day, such as how to deal with spoiled ballots, counting write-ins, and tabulating votes after the polls close at 8 p.m.

Once all ballots have been counted, a print out of the results will be taped to the wall and will be read aloud. 

Tapes and computer chips will then be placed in bags that a police officer will bring to Town Hall for final tabulation and print outs.

In terms of how workers handle write-ins and hand counts: one teller will call the name, while the other records it for tabulation.  

To ensure things go especially smoothly, Arruda said that each precinct’s machines will be tested by the clerk prior to the election.

“I will put early ballots in, I will put in absentees, I will overmark them — we’re going to simulate everything,” she said. “My hope is that you will not have a problem come Election Day.”

Arruda also briefly went over safety procedures in case of an emergency.

“If your place is on fire: run,” she said with a laugh. 

The session, which was held Oct. 25, saw around 30 of the town’s 50 workers stop in. Many have worked their precincts for many years, while others were relative newcomers to the process.

While many communities across the country have reported a shortage of poll workers due to the lingering effects of the pandemic and threats of political violence since the 2020 presidential election, Arruda noted that is far from the case in Dartmouth.

The only real problem, she said, is that many new workers only want to be present for the November election.

Lynne Turner, whose previous election day experience was appearing on the ballot for School Committee this past April, is among the new faces who have put in some work.

Turner first got involved working at the polling location during the September primary at Precinct 8, which is located at the Southworth Library. 

She said what inspired her was wanting to be more involved in the democratic process. That, and there were quite a few volunteers who were sick with Covid at the time.

“[Arruda] needed people and I put my name down immediately,” Turner said. “I then helped with early voting and Primary Day — it was a real crash course.”

Among the things learned through working and this latest session was the importance of treating voters with kindness and respect as they enter the precinct.

“That way no one feels uncomfortable,” she said. “People shouldn’t feel self-conscious about their decisions.”

Another important lesson was to do actual tally marks when doing the hand count while reading the names.

“In September we were counting page by page,” Turner said. “I think things will run a bit smoother this time.”

A number of new workers will also be present at Precinct 3, which has moved to UMass Dartmouth’s Marketplace North Hall in an effort to boost student turnout. According to Arruda, the collaboration has been “going very well” as the new space gets set up.

“They really would like to have this precinct on campus,” she said, noting that it will be staffed by university students and employees.

A separate training session will be held for the UMass workers next week, Arruda said. 

Much of the training will be similar to the Town Hall session, with an overview on ballots, along with rules surrounding electioneering from any candidates appearing on the November ballot. 

“They should not be hanging around,” she said, noting some problems candidates had during the Town Election in April. “This isn’t like after school — just come in, vote, and move along.”

Observers and poll watchers, though, are welcome to watch the process from designated spots, so long as they are not interfering with anything, Arruda said. 

Representatives from campaigns are also welcome to stop into a precinct, but only to check in on the count.

“We’re doing everything by the book,” Arruda said. “They’re welcome to come and stay as long as they like — we do it well here in Dartmouth.”

Election Day is Nov. 8. All nine of the town’s precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your precinct, visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website.