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The Marathon: Life as a Chief Election Judge

Fatigue, confusion, technical difficulties and impatient voters aren't enough to deter local election judges from executing their civil service for the community.

A local chief election judge and Santa Claus have a lot in common.

Both are focal points for a singular event the entire county looks forward to. Both are essential to the big day itself and both work close to 24-hour days to ensure their respective “holidays” go on smoothly.

Of course we all know Santa Claus isn’t real (don’t let your children read this), but when it comes to overseeing a successful polling station, stress, fatigue and cabin fever can be all too real.

Davidsonville resident Luisa Wayson is the chief election judge for the polling station at South River High. 

“It feels like the whole world revolves around this cafeteria for 16 hours,” Wayson said.

The voting room can feel a little like a military bunker—no going outside, no phone calls, and when voter turnout is good, no breaks, she said. However, as a chief election judge, being busy is a good thing.

“There has not been a lull at all. We’re thrilled. We’re really thrilled,” Wayson said.

A chief election judge’s day begins at about 5:30 a.m. when they arrive at their corresponding polling station. As the day progresses, they oversee and manage problems when they arise and ensure things go as smooth as possible. As voting concludes, anyone citizen that’s “in the door” by 8 p.m. gets to vote, meaning judges can remain at their station for an addition hour or two if the line is long enough, Wayson said.

Form there, chief election judges help break down the polling station, collect results and drive them to Glen Burnie. There, every single chief election judge delivers their station’s results—amid a heavy-duty police security, Wayson said.

“You sort of wonder, ‘When are the helicopters going to get here,’” she said playfully.

With the impressive turnout many local voting stations have seen so far on Tuesday, the final tally process could take quite a long time.

Carla Duls, the chief election judge at the Edgewater Library, operated in possibly the smallest polling station in all of Edgewater, Davidsonville and south county. While helping voters along in a sort of makeshift musical chairs kind of format, Duls said she fully expects to not be in bed until well after midnight.

Here’s a breakdown of the voter turnout numbers at some of the local stations at 4 p.m.—well before the final post-work push.

South County Senior Center: 645

Edgewater Library: 956

South River High: 910

Central Middle: 1507

Election Day volunteers throughout the area said they felt like it was their civil responsibility to assist in the voting process. Perhaps the most impressive examples of this were personified in two teenagers who spent all of Tuesday at the polls, even though they weren’t old enough to vote.

Archbishop Spalding students Sierra Clark and Lainey Miller are both 17, and despite the fact they can’t vote, the two chose to volunteer all day and help others celebrate their most basic of rights as American citizens.

“Even though I can’t vote I still like to be involved … it’s a good thing to be doing,” Miller said.

Clark said her interest in politics began as a 5-year-old during the Bush vs. Gore election in 2000. From there, her passion has grown and finally cultivated into her all-day volunteerism.

It isn’t without some perks though. Unlike their classmates at Spalding, Clark and Miller both got to skip class all day.

As a reminder, voting polls in Maryland close at 8 p.m. 

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