Constable Ferry: On The Job At Conewango 1

During Tuesday’s Primary Election, there was a constable on the job at the Conewango 1 polling place in North Warren for the first time in at least several years.

None of the poll workers, some of whom have been pulling that same duty for five years, remembered ever having a constable join them.

I consider it my responsibility to vote. I had never really thought of working at the polls.

Then, in November, I was written in as constable.

I received the most votes and was elected. Writing me in may have been a joke, but I decided to take it seriously enough to look into it. I checked on the job requirements and the benefits – the pay added up to a little less than minimum wage, I think. I accepted the position.

The constable is not the one most people think of, with a uniform, badge, and gun, out serving warrants.

It is a sort of law enforcement position. In fact, the way I look at it, I was the chief law enforcement agent at the Conewango 1 polling place on Election Day. If the judge of elections, who is in charge at each polling place, has a problem, he or she can assign the constable to sort it out. If someone is electioneering too close to the door, the judge could send the constable. If someone wants to get in with a camera and take pictures, same thing. I didn’t think there would be much trouble at Conewango 1. I was right.

I walked (the constable has to live in the voting district) to the polling place at 6 a.m. to help set up for start of voting at 7. I introduced myself. The poll workers were surprised to have a constable in their midst.

I moved some tables and chairs, helped tape down the cords to the voting machines.

A little before 7 I put the “vote here” sign out.

There was a chair for me – I didn’t have to stand guard duty all day. It was a folding chair. It was not comfortable. But, it was a seat. I sat.

And I sat.

Between 7 and 10 a.m. I didn’t have to get up to alleviate any situations. In that first three hours, we only saw 17 voters… several of those were us. During one lull (there weren’t many times I would consider not lulls) I voted. A few people were lined up to get in when the poll first opened. We had another “rush” at about 9 a.m. – five people.

Around noon I couldn’t take it any more. I’d read most of one of the books I brought and had eaten a late breakfast. I was bored.

The most exciting thing that had happened since taping down the cords was our student helper Lacy’s story about her “sassy” frog who will “turn his back to me when I’m talking.”

I asked Dennis – he was clerk of our polling place – how to do his job. He used tiny calculator-looking devices to program the cards that activated the voting machines. Because it was a primary election, the cards had to tell the machines the party of each voter. This was not a complicated job, but it was important. If the calculator was off, press on. Insert the card. For a Democrat, press 1. If Republican, 6. I have no idea why 1 and 6 were chosen nor who chose them. When the prompt showed push the yes button. Pull the card out and hand it to the voter.

I probably did that 15 times. It helped pass the time.

I had lunch. Spinach lasagna brought by our judge of elections Ellen. It was good. I had a brownie that I brought. It was good, too.

More sitting. More reading.

Sometimes, I just got up and paced for a while. The chair was uncomfortable. I was bored. The place was silent as a tomb most of the day.

I spent a few seconds talking to a few of the voters I recognized.

There were no unrulies. No one was electioneering at all, let alone too close to the building.

Starting at about 4 p.m., we had more folks coming in to vote.

The after-work and after-dinner crowds brought our totals up dramatically. From a modest 17 at 10, we had 199 at 6:30. There were seven voters in the building at one point – three at the machines and four at various stages of waiting.

At 7:53 I took a sign down off the front door. A man asked if he was too late. I assured him he was not and held the door for him. It turned out he was our last voter – number 210. Of the 1,372 eligible voters in the precinct, that comes out to 15.3 percent.

Promptly at 8, I brought in the “vote here” sign; our second student helper, Brendon, left; and Ann, the minority inspector, locked the door.

Ellen read from the position requirements that the constable is expected to stay until the votes are all counted. So, I couldn’t leave.

Ellen closed out the voting machines – printing final tallies, pulling cards, locking the covers, and all that.

Kathy (majority inspector), Dennis, and Ann signed all the printouts. Then Ellen signed them.

I was no longer even pretending to pay attention. I sat on the stage swinging my feet.

They did some more stuff.

I tried to stay awake.

They finished. Someone taped one copy of the results to the door. Ellen and Ann kept a copy each.

I put the tables and chairs away and we all left, my first work day as an elected official in the books.

Constable Brian Ferry will return to duty in November.