Meet Undergraduate Poll Worker Essay Contest Honorable Mention, Jacob Mason

This article was featured in the May 2021 issue of Political Science Today, a new member magazine of the American Political Science Association. To read the full article in Political Science Today, click here.

Jacob Mason, Nebraska Wesleyan University

November 3, 2020 was finally here: Election Day. Beginning at 7 a.m., my four fellow poll workers and I worked to quickly set up the polling station in my hometown of Firth, Nebraska, population 590. By 8 a.m., we were ready to open the doors, letting the massive throngs of voters inside; within the first hour, over 100 voters had cast their ballots. As one of two judges, I accepted ballots from voters while continually sanitizing hundreds of ballot sleeves and voting booths with bleach to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As a moderate, I am somewhat of a political misfit in my hometown, which is “Trump country” at its finest: white, rural, and conservative. Whereas the media might encourage me to be afraid of my friends and neighbors, the vast majority of voters in my precinct were kind and grateful to be participating in the democratic process. Out of almost 600 voters, only one reacted unkindly to our recommendation- not requirement- that he wear a mask. Of the three voters who illegally wore campaign memorabilia inside the polling place, not one refused to remove the offending article of clothing. Dozens of voters took time to personally thank the poll workers, recognizing the risks we took in helping the democratic process to proceed smoothly.

Dozens of voters took time to personally thank the poll workers, recognizing the risks we took in helping the democratic process to proceed smoothly.

I am proud to call these kind-hearted people my family, friends, and neighbors because they are good people. These are not the angry and violent Trump supporters shown on cable television. Rather, these are the people who took time to talk with me after voting, catching up and chatting about life. Working the polls opened my eyes to the bright side of American democracy, in which people are excited to participate and treat each other with the respect that we all deserve. As the media continues to spin a narrative that conforms to its worldview, I would encourage reporters to hit the road and talk to the voters in places like Firth, NE. In doing so, they will find hard-working Americans laboring to improve their lives and people who are genuinely rooting for the success of democracy. To heal as a nation, we must not fall victim to fear-mongering. If, instead, we can spread kindness, vote, and have conversations- much like the voters in Firth, NE did on November 3rd, 2020- we will be well on our way towards a brighter future in tomorrow’s America.

The American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Electoral Assistance Task Force hosted an essay contest asking undergraduate students who served as election workers in polling places to submit brief essays reflecting on their experience.