In March 2020, when Covid-19 shutdowns made normal activity virtually impossible, Local G-555 had an officers’ election to run and had to think fast.
Paul Talboo, the local’s executive vice president and acting chairman of the election committee, had just one week to devise a plan, and his thoughts turned to fast food — a business that can quickly deliver a product to people with limited interaction.
“I dreamt about having voting at a Burger King drive-through,” he said.
Talboo ran his ‘drive-through’ voting plan for the 1,000 members at Dominion Energy past the Department of Labor and made sure to address the DOL’s concerns about privacy. The DOL liked the plan so much it used it in its regional training as a best practice example for other unions.
Local G-555 created a voting process that was simple but safe and could be used across its eight districts in Ohio. It also shared its plan with another local needing to run a ratification vote.
The drive-through plan meant that members would remain in their vehicles, which were kept at a reasonable distance from each other to ensure privacy. The local ordered pop-up tents and disposable pens to make it happen.
Three workers were on site with two poll workers positioned at tables at the entrance and exit. The local was able to operate 16 to 18 voting locations concurrently, starting 15 minutes before the day shift and running until 5 p.m.
Members drove up to the first poll worker for an ID check, to sign the roster and to get the ballot. The members received a clean pen, which they would then keep, and marked their ballot in the privacy of their vehicle.
On the way out, another poll worker presented a secure ballot bag to the voter and made sure the ballot was placed into the bag. The bags had numbered seals, the same type used in state and federal elections. The poll worker also had to make sure the ballot slot was open, while averting eyes to guarantee privacy.
G-555 used the process a second time in spring 2021 for its representative election. By then, restrictions had eased somewhat, so members had the option to either drive-through or to park and walk up to vote securely with privacy screens or in a portable voting booth.
While this innovative drive-through system began during the COVID lockdown, Talboo says it’s still applicable. Locals with wide geographic reach could use it for pop-up election sites.