Let’s Keep in Touch

We just finished one of the weirdest Falls that I can ever remember. Now we’re shifting into what will likely be one of the weirdest Winters in our lifetime. It feels dark, scary, and lonely. A lot of things are out of our control. But not everything. We don’t have to be lonely, especially with all of the technology at our disposal. We have lots of different ways to stay connected. And so, for this holiday season, I’m asking my friends and family for one gift: Let’s keep in touch.

Help me figure out how to be your friend, your follower, your fan, your connection, your whatever-your-favorite-platform-calls-it!

I always list the links to my various social media accounts in the right sidebar. They’re all in “ready to receive” mode. If you’re looking to get glimpses into my world, however, these are some of the best portals:

  • I typically check my email, voicemail, and text messages several times a day. I’m usually pretty good about getting back with people who reach out to me through these channels.
  • I post devotional excerpts and seasonal nature clips to my TikTok account once a day. And I also think it’s fun to receive funny or insightful videos from my friends, too.
  • I post to my Strava account and check in on others’ adventures through the app almost every day.
  • New pictures from my smartphone upload to my Flickr account automatically. It probably works out to four or five days per week of new content (albeit without commentary).
  • I try to post at least two or three times a week here in this space (my personal website / blog). I’d like to think this is the most meaningful, contextualized content I put out to the world on a regular basis.
  • I try to check my Instagram account, my Facebook account, and my Twitter account two or three times per week. That being said, it’s probably more like once a month that I post anything in these spaces.
  • I’m even less regular in checking or posting to my LinkedIn account, my YouTube account, and my Snapchat account. But I do have “passports” to these “countries,” so I can visit when desired.

I’m also glad to discover other means of connecting with people, electronically or otherwise. Letters and postcards aren’t out of the question. I’ve got online accounts for Spotify and the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, as well, though I don’t know how to use them as means of connection. I’m willing to learn.

I just want to say: We’re not alone! We can figure out creative ways to provide support and encouragement for each other through this most unusual winter. Let’s keep in touch!

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A Finish Line

We gathered in the parking lot of Walmart for our final in-person Life Group activity of the Fall Semester. We were on a mission to buy Christmas presents for children in our area who struggle with poverty. It’s like a lot of churches who send shoeboxes full of supplies to the developing world, just more local. We’ve done this “Immanuel Project” for years. Still, this year’s version of the project felt extra-special. Because it was a relatively-normal ministry experience for this time of the year. And because it felt like a finish line for one of the most unusual seasons of ministry we’ve ever experienced.

I’ve been full of gratitude all week. Not just the perfunctory week-before-Thanksgiving, fake-it-’til-you-make-it, counting-my-blessings sort of gratitude — but real, deep thankfulness for having made it to this point in the semester. And, indeed, the Year 2020! There were many points where the challenges felt insurmountable. It felt impossible that Kent State University would be able to keep students on campus all the way to Thanksgiving Break. But here we are: on the eve of the same November 20th date that was announced back in the summer. It seems to be partly the result of good planning by the University’s leadership teams, partly the result of students largely doing their part to practice precautions, and partly the result of good luck with a virus that seems to assert itself at will.

Organizing our group at the front of the Walmart felt like a metaphor for the way ministry has gone all year. We wanted to keep people together. We wanted to keep people on mission. But we also wanted people to wear masks and maintain some distance from each other to prevent the spread of COVID. (I realize that these pictures make it look like everyone was constantly standing right next to each other, but I was doing my darnedest to keep the group mindful of the precautions — and they really did a pretty good job, except for when I had them pose for pictures).

In addition to our internal dynamics, we also wanted to minimize disruption to the rest of our community. So when the manager of the Walmart came over to say that their store was not supposed to be a hang-out for Kent State students, I had to explain our situation and translate her concerns into action for our group. A constant balancing act.

H2O has had a pretty successful semester, all things considered. We prioritized the physical well-being of students and the spiritual well-being of students. We had to improvise along the way. And even though we were lacking in some ways, we also managed to grow in other ways. I sincerely love the people in our little “Fellowship of the Hawk” region of H2O. I’ve loved watching the ways that God has worked in and through our Staff Team. We’ve stayed meaningfully engaged.

I’m probably oversimplifying and/or missing some key information. Still, I think we’ve managed to at least provide an opportunity for every “sheep” from our “flock” (plus, amazingly, a solid core of new little freshmen “lambs!”) to pursue God in community — without any COVID transmission on our watch (as far as I’m aware)! That’s really remarkable, I think. I’m really proud of that.

We are not Jesus. Still, this week I’ve thought a few times about Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, where he said, “During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost” (John 17:12). I don’t want to overstate our role, but I don’t want to understate it either!

Nobody wanted to leave the group at the end of our Walmart shopping expedition. We hung out in the parking lot for at least a half-hour. The temperature dropped. The winds whistled. The physical conditions were as uncomfortable as they’ve been at many other points throughout the Fall. But we lingered because we knew that this was a finish line. Video conference calls are fine, but we’re going to miss each other’s presence over the next couple of months. As I got in my minivan and pulled away — the rest of the group still intact and showing no signs of imminent dispersal — I thanked God for a good semester. We fought a good fight. We finished well.

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Baptism in the Cuyahoga River

What a beautiful day in Ohio! We’ve had intermittent rain, 20 MPH winds, and temperatures in the 40s all day. That would normally be “indoor weather” for us. But today, we spent most of the middle part of the day outside. And it really was beautiful because we got to worship with our H2O Kent community and observe a special baptism in the Cuyahoga River.

Like all H2O baptisms, it was a celebration in the life of our spiritual family. But in this case, it was also a celebration in the life of our little family of five.

Kent State University students will be traveling home at the end of this week. They’ll celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. But instead of coming back to Kent for the last week of classes and the week of Final Exams, like usual, they’ll finish out the semester on their computers. University officials were planning this COVID mitigation strategy from the beginning of the school year, but rising case numbers in our area make this seem wiser than ever. Still, with Thanksgiving rolling straight into remote learning and then the longer Winter Break, we won’t all get to be together again until the middle of January. Two months of separation!

So we were really glad to have the chance to worship together, albeit with all the usual precautions. We prayed, studied the Bible, and even sang a few worship songs. And the weather gave us just enough of an opening that it wasn’t totally miserable.

After worshipping with our region of the church, we gathered at the edge of the Cuyahoga River with other members of the church from other regions. All so we could witness our dear friend Dillon and my beloved son Cor publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus through baptism!

I started with a brief explanation of the biblical basis for baptism. Next, Cor took a turn with the microphone, sharing the story of his spiritual journey. Dillon followed with a beautiful, tear-jerking account of his own spiritual journey. And then we all stripped down to our base layer and waded into the frigid waters of the Cuyahoga River.

11-15baptism-3334

“Because of your faith in Jesus, we baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” These words have accompanied the observance of baptism for thousands of years. I’ve had the privilege to utter those words in swimming pools, in a makeshift baptismal tub on the Kent State University Esplanade, and in lakes and rivers in at least two countries. Still, it feels extra special to be affirming light and life in such a dark and dreadful year. And it’s particularly gratifying to watch my own children walk in the way of faith.

I pray that those cold waters of the Cuyahoga River would make the experience extra-memorable for Dillon and Cor. Indeed, for everyone who was able to witness the occasion! We joked that it’s pretty typical for those who are getting baptized to end up cold and wet after the experience, but this time we all got to be cold and wet! But I didn’t hear anyone complain.

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“Feeling Bad” Isn’t Bad

The weather has continued to be unseasonably warm and clear. I’m glad it hasn’t been a “full court press” by Team November. Still, I feel my heart pulling towards melancholy. It often does at this time of the year.

The sunshine and 70s cannot hide the fact that the leaves are falling and the trees are growing bare. I’m encouraged by the results of the U.S. Presidential Election. I’m excited to hear the news of a highly-promising COVID vaccine. Still, these developments cannot hide the fact that we still have two months of Donald Trump’s increasingly-belligerent leadership. Several months of sickness and death ahead of us before anything approaching an eradication of the virus. I feel heavy-hearted, even as I walk through these mild November days.

Still, Ecclesiastes is teaching me that melancholy and heavy-heartedness aren’t bad things. They may even be necessary elements of the human experience.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven…” This stands out as one of my main takeaways from the last couple weeks’ reading of Ecclesiastes. In the midst of all the meaninglessness and despair of this life — the futility of political power, personal wealth, the earth’s natural cycles, and even the development of wisdom — there are a few islands of hope and meaning. “Enjoy food and drink and… find satisfaction in work… These pleasures are from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24). “God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). “Fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). “Remember your Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). We can hold onto these truths through all seasons of life, through all circumstances and emotions.

So I don’t need to feel bad about feeling bad.

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes says, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us” (Ecclesiastes 7:3). Jesus himself bore the mantle of melancholy: “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). So why not learn to identify with Jesus? Why not be refined by this present melancholy? I feel as though God is regularly reminding me of this perspective these days, and I’m strangely happy to feel sad.

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A Quiet Yard is a Happy Yard

It’s raking season. I’ve spent several hours for each of the last several weeks clearing leaves from our deck, our driveway, our front lawn, and our back lawn. And since I’ve been doing some extra work to rehabilitate our lawn from some extra trauma earlier in the year, I also mow the lawn after all the leaves have been cleared.

But I haven’t used a single power tool to do any of this yard work.

No leaf blowers, no weed-whackers, no motorized lawn mowers.

Part of this was pushed upon me by circumstance. My leaf blower died about a year before my lawn mower. But I’ve ultimately chosen to use rakes and clippers and a push-reel lawn mower to do my yard work for a lot of the same reasons that I’ve chosen to use bicycle for transportation instead of automotive: For Health, for Wealth, for the Earth, and for Mirth. It’s good exercise. It offers significant cost-savings. It’s environmentally-conscious. And it’s just nice to find joy in connecting with my environment.

But there are additional reasons why I’ve come to prefer non-mechanized means for yard work.

Storage Space

One of these additional benefits is garage storage space. My rakes, my clippers, and my push-reel lawn mower are all significantly smaller than their mechanized alternatives. They take up less space themselves, and they don’t require extra fuel canisters or special attachments. These non-mechanical tools also don’t drip oil or gas. So they really do lend themselves to a tidier garage, and I love that!

Ease of Use

Another benefit is ease of use. The leaf-blower is perhaps the one exception, where it really does make quicker work of clearing a driveway. But when it comes to all the nooks and crannies of our deck and our lawns, the rake (and tarp) is just as good (if not better) than the leaf blower. The push-reel lawn mower has been the real revelation, though. Not only is it smaller, cheaper, greener, and less work to maintain. It’s actually far lighter and easier to use. It cuts the grass just as well as the motorized lawn mower, and it’s less than half the weight to push around. My lawn is small enough that it really is the perfect solution for our situation, but I seriously wonder why more homeowners don’t consider a push-reel lawn mower!

Silence

The whir and whine of motorized yard tools is annoying. It gets in the way of hearing the birds in the trees, the snip of the blade cutting the grass, the scratch of the rake across the lawn. Now that I’ve gone analog with all of my yard work, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to cut back on noise pollution. It’s made the chores more enjoyable for me, and it’s honestly hard to think about ever going back.

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Fellowship of the Hawk

It’s been a weird year of ministry with H2O Church at Kent State University. We’re still doing Worship Gatherings and Life Groups this year. But everything is smaller and more distributed than usual because of COVID. And as a further precaution and measure of cooperation with the University, we’re doing almost everything outdoors or online this semester.

One might think that these adaptations would lead to attrition and atrophy within the church. And it’s true that our overall church attendance is probably down to about 60 percent of the levels we might see in a typical school year (though this is incredibly difficult to measure in a year like this one). But there have been some surprising ways that our church’s COVID adaptations this year have accelerated community and leadership development. Growing deeper, even if narrower.

We’ve developed seven different regions of the Kent campus and community this year. These regions carry the mission and vision of H2O through this pandemic. The region with which I’m most intimately acquainted and involved is the one that originally centered on the Centennial Courts residence halls and a number of off-campus students who were in a Life Group that met in the East Townhomes apartment complex last year. We started by calling ourselves “The Centennial Region.” But after Kent State University policy shifted to require worshipping off-campus — in addition to the significant number of off-campus students already involved — that name didn’t fit us as well any more.

We eventually started calling ourselves the Fellowship of the Hawk.

This was because we happened to have a red-tailed hawk join us for worship at each of the first six Sundays of the semester. Once he was perched in a nearby tree. Another time, he soared overhead. A couple other times, he was wheeling and calling out over a nearby stand of trees. But even as we shifted locations three times in those first six weeks of the semester, the hawk was the one consistent thing. So we eventually adopted the hawk as a sort of mascot.

All along the way, we kept striving to live Upward, Inward, and Outward. We worshipped on Sunday through wind, rain, sun, and frost. We developed two strong Life Groups, to allow for deeper interaction and to adhere to health guidelines. And against all odds, we’ve almost made it to the end of the semester.

We decided to order team sweatshirts, to commemorate this strange semester. My daughter, Olivia, came up with the design. And they turned out even better than we thought they would! This weekend, we were blessed with warm, sunny conditions for worship, sweatshirt distribution, and a couple of group portraits.

I’m real proud of these people. And I’m already looking forward to seeing how God will shape us through the winter and into the spring.

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The Dynamics of Change

I’ve noticed this fall that the trees of a forest change colors from the outside, inward.

A month ago, there was still a lot of green mixed with bright yellow, dull yellow, and bright orange, with just a few accents of red and purple here and there.

About two weeks ago, the greens became a minority, with a lot of yellows and a few more oranges and reds — and the whole forest started to get involved in the show.

Last week, the outer edges of the forest started to look a little bare. The inner elements of the forest, however, were in full effect. The overall color tone shifted, too. Far more orange and amber hues, with some dull yellows, warm browns, and even some crimson oaks.

Last weekend, however, some high winds ripped through the Northeast Ohio, along with heavy rains and even our first snow cover of the season.

So today, the tree canopy seems to be mostly bare, with some pockets of orange, brown, and yellow.

I’m not necessarily mourning these changes — just noticing them. As a matter of fact, we’re on tap for a beautiful weekend in northeast Ohio, with warm sunshine and calm conditions. So I’m not feeling particularly inclined towards melancholy about the seasonal transition. Still, I can see that we’re in a clear shift from fall to winter. For better and for worse.

It seems to me that our country might be changing in ways that are similar to the forests of Northeast Ohio. Gradually, from the outside, inwards. Joe Biden is on the cusp of victory (legal challenges from Donald Trump still to come). But even once everything is settled, it’s not going to be a sweeping, sudden change. Our country is changing at different rates. I personally believe Biden is the better candidate: wiser, calmer, more rational, more prepared to consider others, more likely to follow time-tested patterns and protocol for governance… And I’m praying that we can experience a smooth transition of power.

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November Prayer Letter

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest…(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

Greetings from Kent! How are things with you? Our family has been doing well. The last two weekends have been especially nice, with time to rake leaves and watch Ohio State football games again. Before that, however, my weekends were tied up with officiating three weddings within the span of one month!

As a pastor for college students and young adults, I feel uniquely positioned to observe wedding trends. And let me tell you: September and October weddings are very popular with young people these days! I can also tell you that barns are big as venues. Outdoor celebrations are on the rise (even before COVID). And desserts are far more varied than the Big White Cake that was traditional back when Marci and I got married (I’ve enjoyed artisanal ice cream, cookies, s’mores, and many other unique sweet treats at weddings over the last few years). I love this aspect of my job!

It’s a joy and a privilege to walk with students through the experiences of dating, engagement, and marriage. Not just pronouncing “Man and Wife” and signing marriage certificates. I appreciate the whole process, with deep discipleship implications each step of the way. Marci and I have really come to enjoy the opportunity to share our years of experience with young couples. And the three new marriages I’ve recently officiated seem to be particularly good case studies of the way that we get to minister to people through the process of casual conversation, premarital counseling, practically preparing for a wedding, and guiding the ceremony itself.

Nick and Kelly

Nick and Kelly met each other through their involvement with the H2O Life Group in Stopher Hall and Johnson Hall (a.k.a. “Sto-Jo”) back in 2015. They were just friends through their first year-and-a-half of college. The second semester of their sophomore year, however, things started to change. I actually have a very specific memory of the day they first shared the news that they had started dating. It was at an end-of-the-semester celebration brunch for that semester’s H2O Interns at the Blue Door Cafe in Akron. (I like to think that the H2O Internship Program is beneficial for a lot of reasons, though I believe that Nick and Kelly are the first marriage to come out of the program!).

Over the next few years, Marci and I got to know Nick and Kelly more deeply through coaching them (and others) in their role as Life Group leaders. Nick eventually felt called by God to go on Staff with H2O after graduation, so we’ve stayed close even as they’ve transitioned from college to the career phase of life. God is doing great things through Nick and Kelly already! Their wedding celebration was on a farm 20 minutes south of Kent, and it was wonderful. Still, would you please pray for their continued growth and development, both as individuals and as a couple?

David and Katie

Katie and David also got to know each other through their years at Kent State University. David, however, didn’t fully discover new life in Jesus until his last couple of years on campus. In fact, the first time I remember David was the day he got baptized (by the same Nick mentioned above!). Katie had been a part of our church previously. But I got to know both of them more deeply when they both joined the East Townhomes (Off-Campus) Life Group, which I was coaching, in the Fall of 2018. I was particularly impressed by the way they influenced others through their involvement with other campus organizations at Kent State University. Katie took the lead in the University’s “Dress Up for Downs” initiative — connecting the Kent State Fashion community with the Downs Syndrome community. David was a major contributor in his fraternity and in the University’s Flashathon philanthropic initiative.

They graduated and moved to Columbus last spring, but they still asked me to officiate their wedding. So we figured out some creative solutions for long-distance premarital counseling. And then I drove down to central Ohio on a beautiful Fall Saturday to officiate a small family ceremony for them and about twenty guests. They hope to have a bigger celebration with more guests for their one-year anniversary, but for now they’ve got everything they need to start their new life together. Please be praying for their relationship, as they live out the first year of their marriage in a place that’s relatively unknown to them.

Joshua and Evelyn

Joshua and Evelyn

Joshua and Evelyn were also a part of H2O during their college years. I remember Evie as a tiny little sophomore, boldly engaging with people at the University’s beginning-of-the-year Blast-Off event (she more than held her own, getting to help make connections with hundreds of new students). I remember long, serious conversations with Josh about things God was doing in his heart.

So even though we hadn’t stayed in close contact since their graduation in the spring of 2018, it was cool to have them reach out and ask if I would be willing to officiate their wedding. The weather was cold but sunny on the Saturday of their wedding, and their families seemed to really appreciate the way that the Gospel was presented throughout the ceremony. Both families had international elements, too, so it was especially fun to hang out with them at the Rehearsal Dinner and Wedding Reception. They’re starting their marriage in a town about 30 minutes north of Kent, and they’re just getting involved with a good church in that area. Please pray with me for God to surround them with deep community in this new church.


I don’t know about you. But it does my heart good to see life carry on throughout a weird year like 2020. It’s not just weddings, either. Within the course of a two-week span here in Kent last month, our Staff team got to celebrate the aforementioned wedding, a baptism celebration for a student from the church, an engagement, a birth, and the announcement of a new pregnancy! Isn’t that amazing?!? Life goes on, even through a pandemic and a contentious election! We have reason to be thankful for the signs of life happening around us. And how much more can we celebrate eternal life in Jesus!

Thank you for your faithful support in prayer and finances that allows us to be doing what we’re doing. We’re so glad to have ministry teammates like you. We’ll be in touch…

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Pilgrimage to Standing Rock

I didn’t sleep very well last night.

Even though yesterday was a long day, I had trouble falling asleep at the end of the day. And I had trouble staying asleep, in the morning. I worry about the indecision and unrest of this Election. Like many of my fellow Americans, we wonder what the next four years will be like.

So I was relieved to go out for a run, once the sun started rising. I ran north and east. Towards the rising sun and a favorite natural landmark: Standing Rock.

The Rock, the river, and the grove of Aspens reassured me. They reminded me that no matter what the next four years of U.S. Presidential politics may bring, that time will be quite temporary in the grander scheme of things. I don’t want to disregard the very real difficulties that will be faced by some people, dependent upon the outcome of the Election. In fact, I worked hard to make this Election an exercise in justice — both with personal conversations and with civic service. Still, some perspective is helpful.

For those who might be thrilled by the outcome of this year’s election, it’s good to remember: This, too, shall pass.

And for those who might be crushed by the outcome of this year’s election, it’s also good to remember: This, too, shall pass.

Posted in American Politics, God, Health, Introspection, Kent, Ohio, Politics, Prayer, Running, The United States of America | Leave a comment

My Experience as a Precinct Election Official on Election Day 2020

PEO

It’s been a long day. I worked for 14 hours (with a one-hour lunch break) as a Precinct Election Official (PEO) for Kent’s Precinct 4A. It was an incredible learning experience for me, as a first-time poll-worker. I don’t want to universalize my experiences too much, but it seems to me that our local democratic processes should give us hope.

There was surprisingly little tension throughout the day. There were no signs of people trying to rig the system or rob anyone else of their right to vote. The actual voting process went smoothly, with only minor technological glitches along the way. Our precinct processed a lot of votes — more for this election than the last three elections combined, according to the other PEOs working with me — but the lines never grew longer than 20-25 minutes, even at the busiest times of the day. All sorts of different people got the chance to vote in all sorts of different ways. And they all respected each other, at least externally, following social conventions and pandemic precautions along the way.

Set-Up

I pedaled up to the voting location — Kent State University’s Beverly Warren Student Recreation and Wellness Center — at 5:40 AM. Things were already well underway. The voting booths were already set up. The equipment was ready to be activated. All eight of us Precinct Election Officials — four “D”s (people who voted in the most recent Democratic Party Primary Election) and four “R”s (people who voted in the most recent Republican Party Primary Election) swore our oaths of office at 5:45 AM.

We were busy from 5:45 to 6:35 AM, getting everything started. I took the job of posting signage to help people find their way to the polls and to remind them of some of the basic ground rules. No smoking. No campaign paraphernalia within 100 feet of the polling location. A map showing all the various precincts in the area. All of the PEOs worked together to get things ready, and by 6:30 AM we were ready for our first voter.

Greeter

My first job in the rotation of PEOs was to serve as a Greeter, from 6:35 to 8:25 AM. For this rotation, I was stationed by the front door of the Rec Center. As each person who came in the doors, I asked the same question: “Are you here to vote or to work out?”

If the answer was “Work out,” I’d say, “Ah, go right ahead then. Have a good workout!”

If the answer was “Vote,” I’d say, “All right! The voting location is just downstairs [while pointing over the railing to where the basketball courts were visible]. You can take the stairs or the elevator [while pointing to the stairs and elevator]. When you get downstairs, just follow the signs and arrows to the green lines that keep you spaced from other voters until you get to the front of the line. And if you could have your ID ready when you get to the front of the line, that will be helpful.”

It was repetitive job. I was working alone, far from all the other PEOs. And there were significant stretches when I didn’t have anything to do. So it wasn’t my favorite spot in the rotation. But during my time as a greeter, a student-reporter interviewed me for her feature story on Kent Wired — and it was fun to have people see my cameo as “Rookie poll worker at the Rec” and text me about it later in the day.

Poll Pad Worker

Around 8:30 AM, I rotated to the Poll Pad stations where voters checked in. Most of the rest of my day was spent there, at the front of the line where voters waited to receive their ballot. Most of the work at this station involved verifying addresses and correcting addresses. Perhaps it sounds simple — but there’s a surprising degree of complexity, particularly in a precinct with perhaps 85% of the voting public being college students who tend to move once or twice a year. Maybe it sounds unimportant — but it’s all designed to make sure that there’s no fraud, with residency requirements that ensure that an individual can only vote one time, in one precinct. I know it sounds tedious — but that’s the careful work of Democracy!

My fellow PEOs were very helpful in passing along their experience and catching my rookie mistakes. In one instance, a Kent State student lived in a large apartment building just off-campus, and it turned out he had the same first name and same last name as another person who was registered in the same apartment building! The only way to differentiate them was by middle name, the spelling of the last name, and the date of birth. So after I made a mistake (fortunately caught by redundancy in our system), I learned to look more closely at all the details for verifying voters’ identities from that point forward.

Problem Solving

My favorite part of working as a Precinct Election Official was helping young people who were voting for the first time. Many of them needed to print out a record of their accommodations with Kent State University’s Residence Services, to verify their eligibility to vote. But the University’s Housing website was glitching at various points throughout the day. So we had to do a lot of problem solving. In some cases, we had to brainstorm other options for how they could verify their identity. And college students truly have it tougher than most people who live at the same address for years (or even decades) at a time!

Fortunately, with patience and encouragement, we were able to guide almost everyone through the process so that their vote could be counted. I’m really proud of all the students who persevered (in at least one case for more than an hour, with multiple University employees and police officers helping out) and exercised their right to vote.

Provisional Ballots

I had one stint in the afternoon, working at the station processing provisional ballots and scanning regular ballots into the system for counting at the Board of Elections. The provisional balloting system was a more tedious process of people filling in addresses and forms of identification — but this part of the PEO rotation was special because it’s where I got to hand out the coveted “I [Ohio / Heart] Voting” stickers.

After less than an hour, however, I rotated back to the Poll Pad stations (which require four out of the eight PEOs). And that’s where I finished the rest of my shift as a Precinct Election Official.

Shutting Down

The last hour and a half of voting was our slowest and quietest. We didn’t have to turn anyone away for showing up too late. No one had to stress about long lines late into the night. We simply waited for our Poll Pads to show the time as 7:30 PM, and then we started shutting everything down. The Voting Location Managers checked and cross-checked the ballot numbers. There were half a dozen different checklists used to follow shut-down procedures and apply a variety of plastic locks with serial numbers that ensured that the Board of Elections would receive all the materials without tampering. It took a little more than an hour to close our precinct. And then I biked home to watch the early election returns, finishing the day by about 8:45 PM.

My experience as a Precinct Election Official greatly increased my confidence in our Election Day systems. A lot of people are working really hard (for minimal pay) to keep things running with efficiency and integrity. I’m concerned about the current President’s character. I’m concerned about many of the current President’s policies. But I’m especially concerned about the current President’s rhetoric trying to cast doubt on our Election Day systems. It has the potential to undermine far more than the current election. I hope that he backs away his claims of fraud and foul play, but even if he doesn’t I personally will not be rattled.

I did my work. My bipartisan teammates did their work. We survived Election Day. Now: the time has come for the people’s votes to be counted.

Posted in American Politics, Kent, Ohio, Politics, The United States of America | 2 Comments