Martha Baker is a longtime Dharma student currently enrolled in the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) distance learning program. She shares her experience as a Georgia poll worker in the recent U.S. election.

A woman sitting in front of a laptop.It was a very long day. I woke at 2 am to do my practice and take care of personal needs before getting to the poll at Emory Presbyterian Church in Atlanta for 5:30 am. We were told that they supplied many more workers to as many polls as possible, to be ready for anything.

From training, we understood that as administrative clerks, we were to provide whatever support was asked by the poll manager and assistant manager and that great customer service was the goal. We weren’t to turn anyone away, and were to welcome all in a safe, courteous, respectful way.

They provided PPE (personal protective equipment) for us. All workers were required to wear a mask. While suggested of the public, it wasn’t required for them, although everyone who came to our precinct was wearing a mask. We understood that we were not to speak about politics but to provide an open and supportive atmosphere.

The poll-worker team was a great group of eager, kind, engaging and respectful people. We had a lot of fun together. There was a real sense of doing something important, giving back to our community for the benefit of the greater good.

I was struck by the meticulous detail and attention given to assuring the security and validity of our elections. Understanding that all voting happens locally, it would take a massive effort of coordination to throw an election of this size. I see that as virtually impossible.

I was inspired by how many first time voters we had. Many were coming from Emory University, as we were on the campus, and they voted by way of provisional ballot.

From where I was standing I could hear people checking in, giving their address and date of birth (DOB). One woman, walking in with the support of a cane and an aide by her side, reported her DOB as 1917, making her 103 years old. She was so inspiring to me. I can only imagine, as an African American woman voting, what she’d experienced in her life. Thinking about it again brings a lump to my throat.

– Martha Baker