By William Herlong
In my almost 30 years living in Greenville, I’ve experienced nearly every part of the political spectrum.
I’ve been a candidate (Greenville County School Board). I’ve campaigned for candidates. I’ve given money to candidates. I’ve put up yard signs. I’ve voted in every election. I’ve been to victory parties. I’ve been to — for lack of a better phrase — non-victory parties. But in 2020, I decided to do something new. I decided to become a poll worker.
Now, this was not some bucket list item or dream position. I did this in response to the klaxon call of need that Greenville County put out over the summer. There were fears that many longtime poll workers would not be returning in 2020 because of COVID-19 pandemic fears. In addition, the added crunch of expected record absentee voting made me realize it was my time to do my part.
What have I learned?
- The biggest lesson is that it would be next to impossible to pull off wide-scale voter fraud in South Carolina. There are too many people in too many places watching the security of the elections here. Every voter is checked and checked again before they even head to the voting booth. There are fail-safe mechanisms throughout the system that would keep a person from voting more than once or trying to vote using someone else’s name. In addition, there is almost zero chance that a person could unintentionally vote for the wrong person or vote the wrong way since there are human and machine witnesses making sure the system goes smoothly.
- It’s a lot of work. I took about four hours of online courses and two tests before going to County Square for an additional three hours of training. That is just the start. On election day, poll workers will be on site for a minimum of 13 hours, and likely clock in closer to 14 or 15 hours. Plus, they may work for a few hours before election day. If anything, that is a problem in the system. Not many people can commit to that many hours in one day for little pay. Not that most do this for the pay, which is getting bumped up from $165 to $265 this year in Greenville because of a grant from Facebook.
- Not all voters are the same. Before the training session, it never occurred to me that there were detailed procedures in place for people who might not have a photo ID; can’t read or write; may have moved too soon before an election; and so on. The toughest part of the training is remembering the proper steps to make sure every voter gets fair treatment.
- It’s important. Greenville needs 2,400 poll workers for a general election to handle everything from greeting people to checking them in to handling curbside voting to making sure people have voted properly to making sure no one tampers with the machines. These 2,400 people are everyday Greenvillians who are going to be handling the decisions of the future of our country.
This year’s election is going to be one of the most unpredictable ones yet, and the pandemic has only increased the unpredictability. Ensuring that there are plenty of poll workers on hand to help things run smoothly during the absentee and Election Day voting process is incredibly important.
William Herlong is widely respected as a litigator, having tried more than 100 cases across a variety of topics including business litigation, computer law, corporate law and many more. In 2014, Herlong received the coveted Litigator Award, a prestigious distinction only given to the top 1% of lawyers in the United States. He is a former member of the Greenville County School Board and is the legal counsel for Joan Herlong & Associates | Sotheby’s International Realty.