What does democracy look like?
The best person to answer this question may not a politician or a television news anchor, but instead someone who sees democracy firsthand, at its most fundamental level: a poll worker.
Every election day, hundreds of polling stations open their doors in every Arizona county for citizens to cast their ballots. These polling stations are operated by volunteers, who are ordinary citizens.
Since moving to Arizona in 2001, Daniel Carman has spent his time on election day working at his local polling station in Pima County, sometimes helping oversee more than three elections a year.
“I see volunteering at my polling place as a civic duty, like jury duty,” Carman said. “To have the right to vote, we need to have folks who are willing to run our polling places.”
Every election day, Carman arrives at his polling place at 5 a.m. and often stays past 8 p.m., to ensure everyone has a chance to cast their ballots.
After so many years of volunteering, Carman cannot exactly remember the number of elections he has helped operate, but some elections are more memorable than others.
“The election year I remember most was the year Obama was elected to his first term,” Carman said. “I remember that year we had really heavy voter turnout and also a lot of very opinionated people at the polls.”
Over the years, voting at Carman’s polling place has, for the most part, run smoothly, leaving Carman time to socialize with his fellow poll workers or read a book during slow hours of the day.
Every now and then though, Carman has to politely remind voters of federal rules that prohibit the display of campaign material or political arguments within polling locations. Carman recalls one year when fellow poll workers almost called the sheriff's department when an overly "boisterous" voter refused to leave the polling station.
While over the years poll workers's responsibilities have decreased, as they no longer count the ballots at their polling places, a consistent shortage of poll workers has contributed to the long lines seen at the polls in recent years, according to Carman.
"I want to see younger people get involved in the voting process by working the polling places,” Carman said. “Anyone can be a poll worker; it just takes a little attention to detail.”
More information on volunteering at polling locations in Tucson can be found at the Pima County Recorder's Office website: recorder.pima.gov.
What does Carman expect this upcoming election will be like?
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"Since it is not a presidential election and with more and more people mailing in ballots early, I don’t think it will be a super heavy turnout at the actual polling location,” Carman said.
Even with his prediction and the recent implementation of stricter voter identification requirements in Arizona, Carman believes more people will be voting this year and he encouraged everyone who has the opportunity to vote to do so.
“Voting is so important, because that is your way of saying what you want for your country and how you want your government run,” Carman said.
That is what democracy looks like.
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