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Conscience Magazine

Doing the (Poll) Work

By Rosemary Jimenez May 6, 2021

THANK YOU FOR PUBLISHING Pearl Ricks’ “Making a Failed System Work” (Dec. 18, 2020). After a hard year dealing with the disproportionate health, financial and personal impact of COVID-19, survival has become a way of life for most. Despite a great mistrust of the voting system, communities of color as well as the LGBTQ community have actively stepped up.

Thank you to Ricks for acknowledging work done by organizers and those educating community members of their power to make a collective impact. During a time when basic survival is of the utmost importance, a woman’s right to choose is still under attack in places such as Texas and Louisiana.

As a pro-choice Catholic, person of color (Mexican American), and a concerned member of society, I served Hays County, Texas, as an election worker and Election Day judge during the 2020 election. After the political shift of the last few years, I followed my faith and felt it was my duty to serve in this capacity.

Growing up and initially voting in southeast Texas, I can remember occasions where I felt scrutinized and somewhat unsafe at the polls. After these experiences I promised myself that if ever I was in the capacity to prevent this, I would. As I currently live in a portion of Texas that is minimally diverse and plagued by stories of intolerance targeting BIPOC and the LGBTQ community, it was essential to be there.

Although I never consider myself an “unspoken hero” or “a hero without a cape,” I was super proud to serve the community, even if I helped just one person.

For those of us in red states, and even in particular pockets of society, this type of work is not the easiest. When harassment, misinformation and disrespect have become the norm, many face difficult situations— including worrying about personal safety. Certain people didn’t want us there and made sure that we knew it. At one point, during a moment of doubt, I asked myself, “If not me, then who will do this work?”

Poll workers often go unpaid or are paid very little. For this reason, I now understand why BIPOC, lower income individuals or just the “Average Joe/Jane” are not able to dedicate time to poll working, leaving a disproportionate gap in representation of who runs and operates polls. Poll working, organizing, educating voters—these are hard work for anyone. As Ricks states, rest is a requirement to continue the work that needs to be done. It is imperative that BIPOC and LGBTQ people rest. To rest now is to ensure that that we can continue to interject and propel ourselves into spaces where we contribute to civic responsibility and enforce accessibility. Well rested and present in these spaces, going forward we can take notes and bring about systemic changes that are needed to better support the community.

Rosemary Jimenez

Catholics for Choice activist and reproductive justice advocate.