Inside the Polling Place
There are countless polling places in the greater Denver area; many of them are schools, churches, libraries, and even some nursing homes. While many polling sites are non-profit, they still have business to keep up with and the election affects that sometimes. I observed the Southglenn library polling and ballot drop-off site on election day, and investigated exactly how the election has affected the day-to-day activities.
Southglenn library, of the Arapahoe Libraries District, was a polling place for two and a half weeks leading up to the election. This is Southglenn’s first year of being involved this directly with the election, having replaced the Goodson Recreation Center as the neighborhood polling site due to Goodson’s current construction. Arapahoe Libraries had two other libraries involved in the election as well. Smoky Hill library was another polling site and Eloise May library was a ballot drop-off site. Yet Southglenn was the most popular, having 1,400 people come in to vote within the first week alone.
But as with everything connected with the election, there are advantages and disadvantages. Southglenn library specialist lead, Ann Marie Stetzel, stated that there was both a lot of good and a lot of bad that came out of the library being a polling place.
“It brings a lot of people in that wouldn’t otherwise know we were here.”
She recalled how many library cards they’ve given out to people who have come in to vote and how many of them commented on how surprised they were about the library. Her and various patrons of the library loved the turnout they got. “So much better than Goodson. . . there’s lots of books to read while you’re in line” said one patron. “It’s in a great location. . . a lot of people have access who wouldn’t at other places” said another.
And a lot of people did indeed take advantage of the convenient location. In the morning, the line got so long that they had to snake it, much like a Disneyworld queue. By 12:45, the voting line was halfway through the library. Towards the end of the voting period, at 6:30, the line was all the way through the library and down the stairs towards the front door; resulting in an almost hour long wait.
With advantages comes disadvantages, and there were plenty of those as well. “There were a lot of confused and angry people. Voters were asking us voting questions, which we can’t answer. . . patrons were angry that there were a lot of extra people in the library” Stetzel stated. They’ve also gotten a lot of people coming into the library wearing election paraphernalia, which is illegal within 100 feet of the library. Because of this and more issues, people were often asked to remove anything regarding the election and were kicked out if they did not comply, resulting in Southglenn losing some patronage during this process.
When asked how she felt about the Southglenn library being a polling place overall, Stetzel smiled, “I would love to do it again, if asked.” Taking on the role of a polling location brought in new patrons and cemented the library as part of the surrounding community. The staff as a whole has welcomed this new publicity and their feelings about it can all be summed up by what a patron said to me on Tuesday: “It is great to live in a country where we have this right. . . and very inspiring to see so many people show up to vote.”