I Counted Ballots in an Election

Sherrill Jacob
4 min readDec 6, 2020

The years I served were those on either side of 2016 and it has been an education about how an election works based on experience from working on the inside. The people I worked with were as much interest to me as how our votes are processed after we cast them, mail in or in person. I worked both. When I say worked I mean worked. My pay for hours of service was slightly above minimum wage and we all felt we were performing a civic duty because what we were paid was not worth the inconvenience of our hours nor the difficulty of our work or the not knowing when or how many hours we would be needed. One might call it job insecurity. Part of describing the election poll workers is that they are only needed when an election is happening. Are all these people who work an election unemployed in off season or perhaps working two jobs?

One of the requirements while we worked was that political party preference was not to be part of our small talk. So please tell me how I came to know that other’s, like myself, were doing their job based on their desire to be patriotic? I even knew what party each of them were supporting. Can you stop a river from running?

My point is that all other poll workers who are in the news so prominently across the United States after the 2020 election had the same challenges as were present in Utah and most of them probably have ulterior motives for placing themselves in those positions above the monetary reward. What significance does this clarification play on our current contentious challenge of the elections results? I think the answer is obvious. Persons who have an interest in election outcomes place themselves in such positions and there is much possibility for preference in the outcome that could be susceptible to corruption.

It was easy to observe the process of ballot counting and I entertained many questions as to what was going on and why. The young persons who had permanent year round jobs with the county and who did the hiring of us the counters were watched by me. I wondered why they had this important position and why they did not survey the actual work of their employees better. There was a woman who hired on after me and came into our group with an attitude of placing herself in charge and seemingly was getting away with portraying herself as having superior abilities above the rest of us. She was placed in the other room next to the where the manager’s were working and given the job of comparing the signatures. Each signature on a ballot was hand typed and this brought their signature in writing forward so a comparison could be identified based on the human judgement of her or other workers who had this assignment. First in importance of this observation was that our government keeps every signature of their citizens on file, probably from driver’s license records. The second was that this process was given so much time to make sure each vote was with a valid signature. This is how the ballots were checked in 2016 in Utah County.

The other thing that I observed about the young manager’s is that they never caught on to the woman they had hired and how basically lazy she was. All of us shuffled through the process as rapidly as possible. Not her, she processed one packet while the normal rate would be three packets for the same amount of time. This did not stop her from stating her preferences about the how to of how I was placing the ballots I had opened.

This point is made to emphasize that the oversight of the ballot counters was not made by the managers as it could have and should have been or the character and quality of their work would have been identified. It should have been identified that there was a loafer on the team. But do you see? There was practically no oversight about anything. In the whole time, hours and days and months of shuffling through packets of ballots I saw no persons over seeing that the process was being done correctly. Once we were told that a candidate wanted to see the process and so we were being given notice they would be arriving that afternoon. Was this notice necessary so we would have our efforts on guard or that we might act differently in their presence? A group of people came and looked around and had conversation with our managers and this for less than a half hour. Other than this one incidence I did not see persons such as poll watchers though I was told there could be such persons observing.

There were strict rules about how ballots in large carts had to have double observers as they were transported between buildings during the counting but when the tally for the final numbers were given to the persons in charge, I saw two men come to pick those numbers up and go alone into what was the room where the machines spit out the tallies. I remember my questioning the need for security of the ballots and then these two men were handed the results. I questioned to myself who these men were and could they be trusted.

This is my view of our election process in the United States of America. Good luck Donald Trump! Good luck anyone else running for office.



Sherrill Jacob

What a great idea. Glad to discover medium. Oct 16 2020 is first day. “When someone gets something for nothing, someone else gets nothing for something.”