David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I am Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're looking at local voting. In case you haven't heard, it's election season again. And on the ballots, there are a number of issues which have a bearing on local, state, national interest, things of interest. And we're delighted to have a very special guest with us today for the podcast, Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, or otherwise known as Dr. Z, outreach coordinator at the Montgomery County Board of Elections. So, welcome, Dr. Z.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
David Payne: For our very first question then let's ask you about the Board of Elections. So a lot of people don't know, what is the actual role of the Board of Elections, what do you actually do. And what actually interests me is, obviously, elections happen twice a year, but I presume your work is year-round. What do you do or what does your year look like for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, so we administer the, not only the local elections, but the state elections as it pertains to a particular contest. So we have them every even year, so a Montgomery County resident will vote, exercise their constitutional right every two years. So, obviously, 2016 was the presidential elections. It's 2018; it's the gubernatorial midterm elections. And then after this election we're looking again towards the presidential in 2020. In between elections, on the odd years, we do a lot of outreach. We look at best practices; we looked towards our neighbors and our counterparts across the U.S. to see what programs, what systems we could implement to improve the process, not only for the voters, but internally.
We do a lot of voter maintenance, equipment maintenance, extensive outreach. We have an aggressive outreach campaign, an incredible team that goes out into the community. So a lot of individuals will say, what do you do every other - like in the odd years. I would love to say sleep. But the fact is that we are always working. And then what's interesting, the election profession is something that you don't really grow up wanting to be. You know, when I grew up I want to be a police officer or a librarian or a physician, you never say an election administrator. But it's a very rewarding profession.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I was one of those 18-year-olds like, "Why do people vote?" But now as an adult and in my past experiences it's very critical that every individual exercise their constitutional right to a secret ballot. Maryland is extremely progressive as it pertains to the franchise. We have a lot of incredible mechanisms in which we will allow voters to vote. And so we are tasked, and that was the first part of your question. We are tasked to be ready for every single registered voter who desires to exercise that right. We always look for 100% turnout. Some elections are dismal. But we always prepare for a full turnout.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we want to ensure that if an individual has a desire to exercise their constitutional right that we are prepared, and we are transparent, and we are ready.
David Payne: How many regular staff do you have year-round?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we're about 24 full-time county employees. And then we will bulk up to over a hundred temporary seasonal staff and do an incredible extension of our team. It's similar to other departments like recreation; they hire a lot of lifeguards. So when it's election season we have a lot of individuals we hire, from election judge recruitment, polling place support, operations, nursing home program, outreach. You know, we really - there's a huge need to be there and ready to serve the public. And we do a lot of outreach as it pertains to newly naturalized citizens to introduce them to their franchise.
For us, we have our bias because we know how the system works. You know you have to register to vote. But Montgomery County is extremely diverse. I believe five of the 10 top the most diverse cities in the nation are in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And we recognize the abundance, the beauty of the various languages and cultures. And so we want to meet them halfway so they understand their constitutional rights. We want to make sure they're ready and they're prepared, and we want to meet them halfway to ensure a seamless, painless experience.
David Payne: Great. Sounds like you're doing a good job.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I hope so.
Julie Dina: Well, since I'm also in outreach for the libraries, I know you mentioned earlier the nursing home program. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So we identify and we work with nursing home facilities, assisted living facilities in Montgomery County, and we do extensive outreach. We will reach out to their social coordinator or therapist or a social worker and we set a date and time, and we train our staff to be competent in how to help these individuals exercise their rights to vote. Whether health reasons or they can't access their polling place on Election Day or during early voting, we ensure that they could vote and leverage an absentee request to vote by mail. And then also we would assist them and they could vote with our team members. We send a team of opposite parties, democrat or republican, or a democrat and unaffiliated, and then we're there to serve. And we will meet them at their facility. So we coordinate that ahead of time.
In between the election seasons if there's new facilities that arise or maybe some will close or they expand, so we do a lot of maintenance to maintain those relationships with the different facilities in Montgomery County.
Julie Dina: Wonderful. So it sounds like you ensure no one is left out.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's our goal. You know, that's our goal. Our goal is to ensure that everyone has access to their franchise. We're always trying to find that equation, that precise science how to encourage people to vote, but that's at the personal level. But we want to make sure that you have a multitude of options. And Maryland, and specifically Montgomery County, I call it The Cheesecake Factory of elections, because if you ever go to a Cheesecake Factory there's a million things in that menu and you always pick the same one, as I am always guilty of getting the orange chicken. But at the same time you have vote-by-mail numerous weeks before actual Election Day, you have eight days of early voting. And then you have Election Day.
And on top of that, we have same-day registration, and we have an aggressive outreach component, nursing home program. It's a large, large - we have a lot of tentacles in the community, but that little piece of crust, the turnout, we're always trying to fine-tune that to encourage individuals to exercise that right to vote every single election.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Well, talking about relationships and building relationship, can you tell us the difference between the county's Board of Election and the County Government, what are the major differences, if there is any?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we follow policy procedures established by the Maryland State Board of Elections. So we're kind of a quasi agency. We're county employees, but we follow those rules established by the State of Maryland. We do collaborate closely with the county executive, the assistant CAOs, obviously the County Council because they have to appropriate our budget. And so there is a close relationship between county government, the council, the second floor, the county executive, the assistant CAOs, but also with the delegation in Annapolis and with the State of Maryland Board of Election. So it's a large family, so there's a very close relationship with all the parties. And then the most important individual is the actual voter. So it's both from the bottom-up and from the top-down. So yes, there's that close relationship between all parties.
David Payne: Do you work closely with other Maryland County Board of Elections [CROSSTALK] [00:08:51]?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes, we have our neighbors. I mean, there's over 24 counties in Baltimore City, so we work closely, and we also meet for best practices.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Sometimes you have smaller counties, like Wicomico, they do some really great things. And also, they want to implement what we do in Montgomery County.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: And later on we'll talk about some of the successes that we implement here in actually one of the programs, it's the only program, it's called the Future Vote Initiative. It's the only program in the entire United States that brings in students as young as middle school to work as Election Day aids, and the goal of the program is for them to serve as a full-fledged election judge before they graduate from high school. And just in 2016, we had over 1,100 17-year-olds serve as an election judge.
Julie Dina: And do they all have to go to Montgomery County public schools?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No. As long as you are a Maryland resident and registered to vote you could serve as an election judge. Obviously, if I you live in Howard County or Prince George's we don't want to take their voters from them. But at the same time, a lot of them will work for Montgomery County, they live close, maybe near Sliver Spring, and so it's just a matter of the voters' interest. And we let them know you could vote for the - you could participate in Prince George's County and, but a lot of times they’ll serve for us. At the end of the day, whatever works for the voter works for us. But for those individuals that do live outside of Montgomery County but within Maryland we do coordinate with them, so they could vote either by mail or during early voting, but we still want them to cast their vote even if they're working for us on Election Day.
David Payne: So, Dr. Z, let me put you in the spotlight. How long have you worked with the County Board of Elections? What do you most like about it? And what you find most challenging?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, I joined the Montgomery County Board of Elections on September of 2003. And actually a little tidbit, I was the outreach coordinator for the public library system from 2000 to 2003, when I joined - prior to joining the Board of Elections. What I enjoy is meeting individuals, informing them, giving them the tools to be successful to have an outstanding experience while voting. There's a lot of sacrifice that come before me to have the opportunity to engage and empower the community to vote. I personally, my family is from El Salvador. So even during the Civil War I had an uncle who actually disappeared trying to bring democracy to El Salvador.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So I have a personal vested interest in the right to exercise your voting privilege. What's challenging with my position is the hours. And I've been blessed with a great family; I have two sons. Sebastian is 12 and Julian, he's nine, and a beautiful wife, Karen. And polling 15 hours a day, but it's a short period. You know, it's a short-term commitment with long-term impact because 90 days leading to an election it's busy. There's a lot of moving parts. You want to make sure that the machinery is well-oiled, and so you pool a lot of hours.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Election night is a long day. The last day of early voting it's a long day. But it's very rewarding. And there's always - of course, we all take our vacations and our breaks, but my family, they, when I became a father my children were young. And so they know that it's an even year, "Good night, Dad. See you tomorrow." And so that's the most challenging, is the time commitment needed. But the reward is way - they're much, much, much, that the rewards are like ten-folds. And so it's a commitment, it's a sacrifice. And it's my little part I could help to defend the constitution.
David Payne: And, I presume, the ultimate reward is seeing high voter turnouts.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. In the beginning when I worked, that was my goal. And then I would get frustrated because then the turnout wasn't as high as I expected. But my reward is daily. Today, this is a reward for me, the fact that I could inform, and educate, and empower a voter; someone may learn something today. That will satisfy my cup for the day. But yes, we always, not just me, but the entire agency, from the director down to myself, we always desire a 100% turnout. And we if we in the low 16%, like we did in 2014 or a little under 25% this past primary, we will always tweak the machine and hopefully aim for a higher turnout. But at the end of the day, we're all adults.
And for your reason why you desired not to vote, it can't be for the options, because once again, we have The Cheesecake Factory options of voting; there's a lot of options for you, so your time, your vote, your voice. So it's imperative that you decide how you're going to exercise that constitutional right through a secret ballot.
David Payne: Absolutely.
Julie Dina: And while we're still on that note, for our listeners, can you tell our listeners why it is very important to vote for the local elections.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Well, all politics are local. And it's important that there is an empty seat at the table. And I think by exercising your right to vote you are being known. You show up, you're prepared, you get your sample ballot, you do your due diligence and your research, and you mark your ballot, you scan it, and you go home, and you get that famous I Voted sticker. And so I assure you, you will feel so much better when you get the sticker on your lapel or on your chest; it's a badge of pride. And like I said earlier before, a lot has transpired to keep that right to vote. There's so many countries around the world that desire to have what we have. And when you have an average or a low voter turnout it does hurt. But at the end of the day, I'm here to serve. I'm a public servant, and I will do anything to help you reach that goal of helping you vote.
I can't tell you how to vote, do not carry your left or right, center, up and down, north, east, west, south; it doesn't matter. But my desire at the end of the day is that you cast your vote.
Julie Dina: And have you mastered ways that might be helpful to get great turnout?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know we've done a lot of outreach. On average, we average about a thousand outreach events in election season.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Where it's - we, for the presidential, between the 2014 gubernatorial general and the 2016 presidential primary - general primary, I apologize. General presidential elections, we did over 1,100 events. And I personally do not care if it's a room with five people, like today, we're four. And - or a big event, like Oktoberfest in Kentlands with 5,000; it doesn't matter. That opportunity to connect with an individual, and so we have done farmers' market, PTAs, food drives; we've done it all. We've gone to clinics and shelters. So at the end of the day, we want to meet individuals halfway. So we've done it all, both electronically. We're kind of meeting millennials with this whole QR codes and geo-fencing, and a lot of neat things are going on right now. But at the end of the day, whether you got a sample ballot or you get a geo-fence tag, whether you got a QR code in the mail, whether you saw us at an event or a farmers' market or at the library, that individual must take ownership and a desire to vote.
David Payne: So we talk about voting. Dr. Z, can you remind us when Election Day is this fall?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. Our polls are open from 7:00 AM till 8:00 PM. We have approximately 235 precincts. Voters should definitely look out for their sample ballot, which is mailed several weeks before Election Day. And then, also, we have early voting. So if Tuesday, November 6, and you're busy, then you could vote during early voting, which is October 25th, that's a Thursday through Thursday November 1st, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, that includes the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. And we have 11 early voting centers across Montgomery County. What's interesting, you're not tied to a specific early voting center. So let's say, I'm going to use myself as an example. I live in Clarksburg; I am doing events Downtown Silver Spring, at the Silver Spring Library. I could flex my right to vote at the Silver Spring Civic Center.
But for Election Day you are tied to your Election Day precinct. However, we are blessed with traffic in this area. If for some reason you can’t make it to your precinct you could go to a neighboring precinct, you would vote a provisional ballot, and then we would do some research to ensure that whether that ballot is accepted in full or not. But we do encourage you to do due diligence, to go to your neighborhood precinct on Election Day, but the early voting centers are there to facilitate access to the franchise. So you have early voting, you have Election Day, and then you have vote-by-mail. Right now we have the absentee vote-by-mail application online. You can make a request via email or the old style, download an application and mail it to us. And then we will do our due diligence to send the appropriate ballot style to that address that is presented on the application.
Julie Dina: So, for those who haven't already registered, how can they do so, and how can people find out if they have registered in the past or not? And also, how would they find out where their local polling station is?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Okay, great questions. So the first thing, I encourage individuals to go to our website, which is 777vote.org. You go to our website, and if you scroll to the bottom there's a tab that says Voter Lookup. And you would click on that or tab if you look on your cell phone and you - it depends. You have to be correct, unless you have a touchscreen monitor at home. And what you would do is you would put your last name, first name, date of birth, and zip code, and we will cross-reference that information, it'll tell you've registered or not. If you don't get anything back from the database then we would encourage you, on the same website, especially if you have a Maryland driver's license, a Maryland permit, or a Maryland ID, you could register to vote online on our website, and it's easy. You could see, it says Voter Registration, and there's a tab that says Register Online. But you must have one of the Maryland-issued IDs in order to do so.
If you do not have an ID, driver's license, or permit, there's also a tab, Register to Vote, and you could download the paper format, fill that out, and mail it to us to the address that appears on the application. Even if you live in Prince George's or, let's say, Washington County, it's the state form. And on the back of that form is the corresponding address for that corresponding local board of election of Baltimore City, so you can mail it to them. If you are already registered but you want to do maybe a name change, address change, party affiliation change, you could actually fax your application to the local board of election if you don't have a Maryland ID or driver's license or permit. But if you do have those forms of ID you could update your registration online.
You could go to the libraries. The libraries will have copies of the voter registration application. You could go to the local DMV or the Motor Vehicle Administration to register as well. There's a lot of options, there's a lot of - you know, this is Maryland, and you live in Montgomery County there's no excuses. And I, trust me, I've spoken to thousands of voters over my career, and I've heard all the excuses, and I come back with …
David Payne: There isn't one.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: There isn't one. This one's on you, my friend.
Julie Dina: It's all on you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yes. So there's a lot of options. And they could also call our office, 240-777-8532. And I will - definitely glad to help, and we're there to serve.
David Payne: Great/
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So, a couple of other voting questions. When is the last day to register to vote? And also, if anyone perhaps new to Montgomery County, are there any particular residency requirements to vote?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, as it pertains to the deadline, it's Tuesday, October 16th. As it pertains to residency requirements, if you've registered to vote, we have something called same-day registration. So, let's say you missed the voter registration deadline and you're new to the county, you could register to vote during early voting. You would present ID, Maryland-issued ID or driver's license or permit. And if you don't have that because you just moved in, then proof of residency, bank statement, the lease of your home, utility bill with your name and the address, and then we could register. And then we will grant you the opportunity to vote during early voting. Now, if you missed the voter registration deadline, which is once again, Tuesday, October 16th, and you don't leverage same-day registration during the eight days of early voting, from the 25th of October through the 1st of November, then we would provide you a provisional ballot on Election Day.
We would do our due diligence to research, because it could be that you lived in Prince George's County, could be that you registered and maybe you got married or divorced and there's an error on your record. We always provide - we always give the voter the benefit of the doubt. We will do extensive research. And if it happens to be that you are registered to vote and you casted a provisional ballot, then we will make recommendations to our board of directors to either accept or accept in part your provisional ballot. If you're truly not registered and you showed up on Election Day, November 6th, and you are given a provisional ballot, you will be ready for 2020. The provisional ballot application doubles as a voter registration application. Another quick tip is look out for your sample ballot.
If you don't get your sample ballot within, like, two to three weeks, either contact the Board of Elections or go to our website just to make sure that you're registered to vote. So, if you're listening to this podcast I would highly recommend not to wait until November 7th, which is a day too late, because Election Day is the day before.
David Payne: Right. So as you say, no excuses.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, no excuses. Yeah, there's no excuses.
David Payne: Yeah.
Julie Dina: How exactly do they determine the polling stations? And how many polling places are there in the county?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So there are, give or take, about 235. They change, sometimes we consolidated precincts, sometimes we add precincts. We keep tabs on the population growth of the county. We look at our, we call it MD Voters, which is our voter registration database. Everything is based off of that, the allocation of election judges, the allocations or creation or consolidation of precincts. Obviously, if you look at Silver Spring, 50% of our voters live in the Silver Spring area. So if you would look at a precinct map you'll see over close to 75 to 80 precincts in the Sliver Spring area. If you go to Poolesville, there's two precincts. So it's based on population, and based on our voter registration database. So we have about 660,000 registered voters, it's always growing daily. And so after an election we will tweak, if needed.
If a precinct grows too big, for example, let's say they have 3,500 voters, then we may consider identifying another facility within the neighborhood, and even splitting that. But there's like an extensive research, vetting, we have opportunities for the community to give us recommendations and to share their concerns. We don't anything on the fly.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: That's not how we roll.
Julie Dina: So you just don't say [CROSSTALK] [00:26:57].
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: No, you vote here now [CROSSTALK] [00:27:01] we don't operate like that.
Julie Dina: Okay.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: We don't want to disenfranchise voters. We want to facilitate their right to vote. And sometimes schools close, they open, they do a refresh, like some libraries do refreshes.
Julie Dina: Yes.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Or they'll build a new facility. And so we always add. And we may temporary relocate voters to a different location. And we understand that sometimes the voters do get upset with us, but ultimately our goal is not to upset you. Our goal is to protect you, and your right to vote. So I tell voters to be patient with us, you know thank - and there's one thing I always want to tell individuals, you need to thank our volunteers, our election judges. After an election all the campaigns are like, "Woo". Either they're sobbing in a corner or elated and popping champagne. But don't forget our volunteers; don't forget our team members, the staff. Because - and I'm going to take the liberty of saying that without our volunteers and without the staff this party wouldn't take place.
David Payne: Right.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So when you go and vote, say thank you to our election judge. If you see a young lad or a young lady volunteering at the pools handing out I Voted stickers, say thank you, tell them how proud you are. That little extra smile, you know. We don't want to see frowns; we want to see your teeth, okay. And thank us, because at the end of the day we're there to serve.
David Payne: What's the typical voter turnout that you may expect for a midterm election? And presumably you're anticipating a large turnout or hoping for a large turnout. Is there sort of a benchmark figure that would be acceptable for you?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: 100% is acceptable, nothing less; nothing less. We always aim for 100, it could be 60%. It all depends on the climate, it depends what's going on in the nation, depends what's going on local politics.
David Payne: The weather even, I suppose.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Even the weather. Yes, even the weather. And it's interesting because even when I compare what we have, and we're blessed what we have now. And I compare it, for example, to El Salvador, they don't have provisional balloting, but their voter turnout is higher.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's interesting. And so we always aim for 100, let's say we get 60%-70%. Obviously, if we get 70% we're still missing 30% of the electorate. But we try to target those 30%. We have those famous super voters, and they will come regardless if there's a hurricane coming, they will show up. And that's great.
David Payne: Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, for those individuals that historically vote every year, we love you. Can you help us identify someone who doesn't vote every other year and bring them with you, because then you're an extension of us, and that would be help us tremendously, because at the end of the day we have a finite budget, we all pay taxes, and we want to leverage that accordingly. So please help us.
David Payne: Can you give us suggestions as to where someone can find out about candidates for smaller offices, let's say, a school board or city council?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, we collaborate with a lot of organizations. The League of Women Voters, whether it's Maryland or Montgomery County or your particular county, does incredible work. Also, they have the voter's guide that goes out. That's a good publication that you could get at your neighborhood libraries. I believe they deliver them to all their branches.
David Payne: They do, uh-huh. Yeah.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You know, in the advent of internet, Google it. [CROSSTALK] [00:30:45] tell people, "Google it." And if you don't know how to Google it, find someone who does. Everything is online nowadays. I know sometimes the candidates, I know they will mail out the mailings, the research seen, so read that information they send. We will not - all we will provide in our sample ballot is the candidate's name and the contest for which he or she is running for. Other than that, the League, a lot of nonprofit organizations, there's a multitude of forums - forums that will take place for the different contests, keep your eye out on those. I say go to those forums and ask your questions, and the local newspapers and print. Print or online, or TV, but do your due diligence, get your sample ballot, do your research, markup your sample ballot; vote.
David Payne: Be informed.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Please, yes. Yes, please. Because it makes early voting and Election Day go much smoother when you know how you're going to vote your ballot, as opposed to taking 69,000 leaflets, and the voter's guide, and the posts. And then the voter is like, "Why do I have all that paper laid out on them and on that ballot booth?" Do your homework beforehand; I'm telling you ahead of time. So you got about two months, so get cracking.
Julie Dina: It's funny we talked about googling it earlier, but I was going to ask you, how has technology helped to improve voting procedures and efficiency, and just voting in general?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, right now, we're working with the Department of Technology Services to create geo-fencing or geo-tagging. And hopefully, I'm crossing my fingers, but what would happen is as you go near an early voting center you get a little tag, a notification that you're close to the Potomac Community Rec Center. It'll have information, it'll have directions; it's pretty neat. And the reason I wanted that geo-tag capability is also when we do outreach into the community. We're going to visit all the high schools or when we come to the libraries, we could geo-fence the Rockville Library, and everyone who's walking around the Rockville Library could say, "Oh, people are - I could register at the Rockville - there's someone from the Board of Elections."
Those are kind of the things. And it's something that I was dying, I wanted to do since, actually 2014, but the technology wasn't there yet. And it was expensive back then. Now it's cheaper. That's one of the kind of things we want to implement with the advent of technology. We're starting to QR code everything because that's the language of millennials. A bookmark, you know, and it works for the libraries. But for us when you go to a student and you give him a bookmark with information they look at it like, "Okay, thank you. Oh, that's to my grandmother." And it's funny because, "Okay, I guess this is not going to work." But they love QR codes because they'll just scan the QR code and they could register the vote, they could sign up to be an election judge, they could get information; so QR coding is great. It's simple, it's inexpensive.
And texting, you know, texting. And we're starting to use more social media. That's another - you know, it's been around for a while, but I think more agencies are using social media. But it looks easy, but it does take time. And so - but I think those are the three tips, I would say. Geo-fencing and QR coding are two good quick ways to leverage technology in favor of promoting or selling your services.
David Payne: Sticking with technology, the hacking of elections is a very topical subject. Can you tell us what hacking elections actually means, and also what procedures the Board of Elections has to ensure the protection of our voting process?
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: So, there's a lot of internal mechanisms in which we implement as guided by the State Board of Elections, especially when you do the VPN network for early voting we don't share Wi-Fi, we don't upload results on election night over the internet. I mean, we literally drive everything. I think individuals, because of the age of the internet, everyone's an expert. And so I tell individuals, at least in Maryland and Montgomery County, it's secure, okay. I think what we need to focus is encouraging your neighbors to vote, marking up your sample ballot, ensuring that your voter registration is current. Even if you are moving within the same building, so let's say you live in apartment 101, you marry; you have two kids, now you move into apartment 201 in the same facility, that's a new address for us.
So make sure everything is current. And make sure you make a cognizant decision, am I voting by mail during eight days of early voting or on Election Day. The hacking, security; we got that covered. Trust me, we got that covered.
Julie Dina: Cool.
David Payne: Sounds good.
Julie Dina: So do you have any tips for those who bring their kids to the polls, and also for, and I can tell there's got to be crazy things or crazy situations or stories that you can actually share with us.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Yeah. So with children, if your child is 12 and older and you bring him to the polls, we will request that they fill out a voter assistance form, because the thought process is that individual could entire the voter to change their decision who to vote for, okay, because they're 12, and kids are very intelligent, very sophisticated thinkers. Having said that, for those families with children grade six to 12 in Montgomery County, we welcome them to work as future vote ambassadors on Election Day. All the information is on our website, 777vote.org, and the upper-right-hand corner, it says future vote, or midway on a page on the left-hand side it says Future Vote, has all the FAQs on how to register your child, there's a training that's mandatory, so one-hour training session in middle October. They'll work in their precinct; they earn SSL credits that they need.
And then once they hit 16, we would love for them to serve as election judge. And they could earn up to $210. But this is also for our voters. So if you're an adult and you have some extra time and you want to serve as an election judge, go to our website, signup, serve, and we will call you every other year to see if you're available. Now, interesting story, I have a lot of stories. Let me see, we'll try to find a PG story - rated G story. So this was the funniest. And so we had one of our future vote ambassadors, sixth grader, big-eyed 11-year-old, and we happened to forget to pack the power chord for one of our voting system, this was several years ago. So the chief judge was ecstatic, "Oh my god, what are we going to do? We need a power chord, we're missing one. We have to call the office." So they called the hotline, you know, our helpdesk. We said we'll deliver the power chord tomorrow morning, it's okay, there's a battery pack, you're fine.
So there was this 11-year-old and he said, "Oh, let me look at the equipment." And they're not supposed to touch the equipment. He's like, "No, I'm not touching; I just want to look at it." And he told the chief judge, "Can I call my dad." He's like, "Okay." He's like, "Dad, go to my PlayStation and go to my DVD, and take the power chord off and bring it to me now." So then the dad's like running up the street, goes to the precinct, and it fit. It worked. And so now the chief judge could sleep at night, because the meeting was on Monday night. And then he woke up early, showed up at the polls at 6:00 AM to open the doors at 7:00. And the power cord, it worked. And then the funny thing is after the student did their four-hour shift in the morning he came back in the evening, knocked at the window of the school. And the judge is like, "Are you okay, what's wrong? Did you forget something?" "Yes, I forgot my power chord." And he took his power chord back from his PlayStation. So that's a funny story.
Julie Dina: Wow, that's really cute.
David Payne: We're ending on a happy note. Dr. Z, we always close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are reading or recently enjoyed. So, something other than League of Women Voters election guide, perhaps.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: Uh, COMAR and the Maryland election law book, unfortunately that's what I read, unfortunately for now. You know, finding time to read, and with my sons, that's - every year I say I'm going to read this book. I have a book called, Path to Power.
David Payne: Uh-huh.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: It's the autobiography of Lyndon B. Johnson. I owe the library a lot of money.
Julie Dina: Take note.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: I've had that book since 2004. And I always have to restart it because I forget what I read three years before. But yes, but that's one of my list of things to do. So I won't lie. I don't read much lately. But right now what's on my desk are the COMAR and Maryland election law.
David Payne: Well, thank you.
Dr. Gilberto Zelaya: You're welcome.
Julie Dina: I've got to say, Dr. Z, it's been very enlightening. Thank you so much for joining us on this particular program.
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