Inside a polling station for the 2021 California recall election


Rohan Vaswani

Poll worker observes stations at Los Altos Youth Center during the recall election.

As today marks the last day of voting in the 2021 recall election, some Santa Clara County polling stations allow for voters to vote in person and have been since Saturday, September 4.

In Santa Clara County, polling stations are generally staffed by three types of workers: volunteers, aides and leads. Leads go through multi-day training and are expected to resolve any issues that arise during election days, aides assist the leads in doing specialized tasks such as printing out people’s ballots and volunteers help out by doing things such as sanitation and greeting voters. 

Polling stations in Santa Clara County, such as the one located in the Los Altos Youth Center,  accommodate in-person voting by distributing paper ballots or having voters cast ballots through a touchscreen. They also accept provisional and dropped off mail-in ballots. 

In-person voting booths for paper ballots. (Rohan Vaswani)
In person voting booths have a reading light and voter assistance information. (Rohan Vaswani)
(Rohan Vaswani)

When a voter comes in to fill out a ballot in person, they are sent to a line in order to either get a ballot printed for them or an activation card that will allow them to fill out their ballot on a touchscreen device. Voters are allowed to choose which type of ballot they receive.

Voters waiting to get their ballots at Los Altos Youth Center. (Rohan Vaswani)
Voter walking towards the polling booth to cast their vote in person. If a voter needs to change any personal information, they are given the necessary forms to fill out before they receive a ballot. (Rohan Vaswani)
(Rohan Vaswani)

Voter assistance guides and forms are in multiple languages. Once they fill out their ballots, voters must actually cast their vote through a ballot scanner, regardless of whether they chose to fill it out by touch screen or paper. The voter either scans their paper ballot or a printout they get after completing the touchscreen. These vote counts give counties preliminary results before the votes are fully verified.

Ballot scanners are the final step of in person voting. If a voter wants to vote by mail rather than voting in person, the polling station has a secure ballot bag where they can drop off their sealed ballot. (Rohan Vaswani)
(Rohan Vaswani)

Blue ballot bag holds mail in votes that were dropped off at the polling station. The emergence of COVID-19 has resulted in the increase of mail in voting and a decrease in traffic at the polls. Poll workers such as Anh Kunita aren’t deterred by this and view their volunteering as, “being a part of the community and … [giving] back to the community.”

Volunteer Anh Kunita sits at the front of the Los Altos Youth Center polling station. (Rohan Vaswani)