Lessons from 2016 Election

In mid-August I was asked to join the training team for the Denver Elections Division (D.E.D.) 2016 election and I jumped at the opportunity. We started out 12 strong and finished 11 strong two months later. I knew that working with D.E.D. would be fun, rewarding, challenging and above worthwhile; all came to fruition. I’ve been an election trainer, judge and field representative since 2008!

As I stood in front of the classroom for three weeks giving information on registering voters, customer service, trouble shooting and other tidbits about getting everyone who wanted the privilege to vote their opportunity, I was proud to be there. The team trained over 275 people in three weeks and then sent them on their way to the 26 voting service centers Denver set up for this massive undertaking of a General Election. Almost 50 percent of the election judges were veterans who’d worked elections, some 15+ years and some just a few, to the brand new faces who wanted to serve their city and state.

Lessons:

  1. Treat people the way you want to be treated. I watched one supervisor tear down her team and it showed in their work. It was a two week job and everyone there – almost everyone – was eager to learn and to help. Can we get along for just 16 days? Apparently not. That was sad to see and hear. But the other supervisors and assistants brought joy to their teams; therefore, joy and appreciation to the voters. How you act as a leader so goes your team.
  2. The general public is quite the patch-work quilt. I know some of you deal with the public daily and get used to the personalities, but I don’t often have that situation brought to the forefront daily. Wow. See #1.
  3. When you make a commitment, keep it. Hiring almost 700 people for those few months took an amazing amount of work for the DED team, and to have people either not show up or quit for no reason caused havoc across the board for everyone involved. Again, it was just two-plus weeks for the election judges. They were paid – not abundantly – and went through training, and other people counted on and needed them. DED then had to scramble to get others to fill in.
  4. A positive attitude is paramount. During the first week of early voting the days were long and boring with most of the voters mailing in their ballots or trickling in for a replacement. Being upbeat with your co-workers and maintaining a sense of humor go a long way for long days. They go even longer when there’s chaos, mistakes, computer glitches, long lines and angry voters.
  5. Some of the registration judges stayed at their computers for hours on end Monday the 7th and especially Tuesday when some of the voting centers had 200-300 people in line. I was at the last voting center to close at midnight on election night. Their dedication and hard work was brilliant; I applaud all of them.
  6. Step up and show up. The first 12 centers were up for two weeks, then another nine for the last weekend, and finally four more the last two days to help with the community at large; 26 total. After the first two weeks the assistant supervisors became supervisors at a new center; that’s scary when you’re in your first election and it’s as big as it was. All of the new supervisors stepped up, showed up and delivered. Kudos.
  7. Patience, kindness and understanding went a long way. Disabled, sight impaired, elderly, English as a second language and confused voters needed and wanted our help. Our ballot was four long pages: nine amendments along with the federal, state and local officials made for longer voting time. Patience,kindness and understanding also made a difference with the teams; helping each other.
  8. Take pride in voting. I loved seeing first-time voters, and not just 18-year-olds, but new citizens too. Voting is a privilege and an important and powerful tool for all of us. It’s a joy to witness.
  9. The 20 full-time employees at the Denver Elections Division are dedicated and amazing individuals. They care about our city, state, country and all of you, and it shows. I was honored to work these past two months and will jump at the opportunity to work with them again, to help the public have a positive voting experience; I hope they let their friends and family know how important voting is.

Here’s to the greatest country. I’m proud of America and Americans, and I salute the men and women in uniform – at home and abroad – who fight and serve to keep it great. I’m proud of the work I did and the opportunity I had to work together with a good team, supportive and informed managers, and an organization that works. Thank you.

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