I'm a poll worker in Georgia — here's what it's been like helping people vote in one of the most hotly contested states

I'm a poll worker in Georgia — here's what it's been like helping people vote in one of the most hotly contested states
Denise LeGree on a break after a long day at the polls.Denise LeGree
  • Denise LeGree is a 58-year-old poll worker in Gwinnett County, Georgia, a suburban county of Atlanta. Votes in the state are still being counted.
  • After a stint as a poll watcher during the 2008 election, LeGree decided to work the polls in 2020, devoting her time to helping set up voting booths and scanning IDs on Election Day.
  • She says the job has exposed the convoluted process of voting, a system that she feels has often left behind BIPOC voters.
  • "The majority of the people who live in Gwinnett County are either immigrants, Hispanic, or Black," LeGree told Business Insider. "And the government doesn't want these people to come out and voice their frustration through the vote."

Though I'm an insurance broker by trade, I first got involved with the elections in 2008 as a volunteer poll watcher for President Barack Obama. I've always voted since I was 18 years old, but like most people, I didn't really understand the voting process. When Obama was running, I got really interested in learning more about how the votes were tabulated.

I got so nervous about this year's election that I decided to be a poll worker — which is a little more involved than just being a poll watcher. I had to take online training classes with the county, provide documentation that I was a legal citizen of the US, and complete in-person training. Then the night before the election, you have to go into whatever precinct you've been assigned to and set up all of the voting machines according to Georgia law.

Before I left my home on Election Day, I woke up in the morning, packed a lunch, snacks, and water, because I wouldn't be allowed to leave the premises until voting closed.

We had to be there the day before to set up everything — all the machines and the documents on the wall. On Election Day, we had to be there at 5:30 a.m. I was the person who scanned in driver's licenses and gave voters cards to vote.
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With Georgia being so aggressive with early voting for the first time and so many people coming out to vote — I think the number was over 4 million — the actual Election Day was very slow. We had 40 to 50 people in line when we opened promptly at 7 a.m. Throughout the day, we had people coming in, but it was never in lines; I heard that was a thing across Georgia.

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Our governor hasn't made a mask mandate.

It was required that everybody who came into the precinct had to wear a mask — all day. If you didn't have a mask, we had some for people to take with them. Our precinct went as far as using disposable stylus pens, so when you cast your ballots, you could just touch the screen and throw it away. We periodically went through and wiped the machines after people had used them.
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At the end of the day, all of the votes had to be tabulated.

The machine spits out this long page. Once that happens, our poll manager has to get those ballots back to the election board. Each poll manager has to pass everything to the precinct and take those totals to the election board; everyone is leaving at different times. The polls closed at 7 p.m.; we were able to leave by 8 p.m.

Looking at it from this side, I understand the states that are still counting ballots and why they're still counting them. It's unbelievable how this works.

We had a lot of people who were first-time voters.

Some people brought their children. Everyone would stand up and applaud for them. We had a couple of people who were at the wrong precinct.
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One guy came in who just had his wisdom teeth pulled with his mask on. Another guy was 21 or 22 years old — he came in on Monday thinking it was the last day of early voting, but we had to tell him to come back to vote in person, because early voting closed the previous Friday. He was so upset that he got it wrong. He lived almost 45 minutes out of Snellville. We thought to ourselves, "He's not coming in tomorrow," but lo and behold, he came back.

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But the process isn't fair.

I'm an African American woman. From the beginning, the government made it so hard for us to vote. America is always claiming to be the home of the free and brave, but that's not even true, because if it was, why is it so difficult for people to vote?
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Historically, in the county I live, when it's a presidential election, there are usually three early voting places open. This year, they had nine, which was unheard of. It was so difficult in the past. You usually would have to go to the elections board or travel far to vote, even though Gwinnett is one of the biggest counties.

The majority of the people who live in Gwinnett County are either immigrants, Hispanic, or Black. And the government doesn't want these people to come out and voice their frustration through the vote. It's so frustrating. This is 2020 and we're still dealing with the issues my ancestors and my parents had in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

It was a good day, until I got home and saw what was going on.

To be honest with you, I'm a Democrat, and I was so confident that Biden was just going to blow this away. So, during the day, I was perfectly fine. I wasn't nervous, I wasn't any of that.
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After working all day, I couldn't wait to get home so I could watch the returns. But when the results started coming out, my stomach just sank. All of the things that were happening in the last four years — it was like people were not paying attention.

I got home at 8:30 p.m. and stayed up until 4 a.m. I'm watching this stuff, I'm counting. I felt like I was going to vomit.

I'm a poll worker in Georgia — here's what it's been like helping people vote in one of the most hotly contested states
After watching the results come in, LeGree kept track on a scrap piece of paper.Denise LeGree
Since I got back up this morning, I started paying attention again. My stomach has finally settled, I've finally had something to eat, and I had a cup of coffee, because I thought I was going to lose it.
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Last time, when Hillary Clinton lost, I was so confident she was going to win. That next day, I stayed in bed and cried all day. But I'm not crying today, because we're going to pull this out, I feel it. I feel it.

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