Spotlight on Service: Election Day with Tracy Nelson

In this month's Spotlight on Service we are highlighting the tremendous accomplishments of Tracy Nelson from Newport, Rhode Island.

In her role, Tracy is responsible for ensuring safe and secure elections. She orchestrates all the logistics of an election cycle - from ensuring equipment is functional and arrives at the right locations to identifying and training volunteers to answering unresolved questions, to sharing key information with her electorate. Tracy is also an active member of several associations, known for leaving her mark on new policies to improve the election process for her community.

What are the key responsibilities on your plate today?

Early voting, processing mail ballot applications, fielding voter inquiries, candidate inquiries, dotting all I’s and crossing all t’s to be ready for the Primary, and then the General Election.  

What keeps you up at night when it comes to the work you do?

My mental to do list. And fear that I am going to forget to do something or do something wrong and end up on the front page of the newspaper.

What gets you out of bed in the morning/keeps you motivated?

My alarm. COFFEE. The non-sarcastic answer is unwavering faith in our democratic process and that what we do IS IMPORTANT.  People died for our right to vote.  I take that responsibility very seriously.

What is something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of?

I’ve been proud of having a (loud) voice at the table with the RI Town & City Clerks Association Elections Committee. In coordination with Secretary of State Gorbea and her Elections team (primarily Rob Rock, Director) and the Board of Elections I have been involved in shaping what our elections look like. I’m also proud of attaining my CMC (Certified Municipal Clerk) designation a decade ago. I am currently working toward my MMC (Master Municipal Clerk) and I’m almost there!

If you could forecast out 50 years from now, what is one change you’d hope to see in your field?

The ability for any registered voter to vote anywhere within the state during early voting.  If I work in Newport, I’d like to be able to cast a Richmond ballot here in Newport (without using a mail ballot).  I can’t vote in my town of residence on Election Day because I am the Elections Administrator in Newport.  Early voting in my hometown is 9-4 and I work 8:30 – 4:30 with a 45 minute commute so it is impossible for me to vote in person unless I want to take time out of work, which isn’t easy to do during elections when you’re the Elections Administrator.  Prior to early voting, it was impossible.  I don’t think it’s an unrealistic goal.  I’ve heard other countries have kiosks conveniently located at public places throughout a jurisdiction and you can vote at any of them, at a time that is convenient for you.  We are a small state.  I’m sure we can do it.  We just need to figure out the logistics and security issues.  But I’d love to be able to cast my ballot at ANY city/town hall, post office, or Walmart in the state.  

What value do you see in learning from your peers?

I believe learning is a lifelong goal.  No one has ALL the answers, so the best way to learn is to talk to others that share the same responsibilities, goals, and challenges as you.  Brainstorming sessions are awesome.  I do it with just Caitlin, who started recently in my office.  Just because I have a way of getting something done, it doesn’t mean it’s the best or most efficient way.  The only way to know that is to exchange ideas.  One of my least favorite things to hear is “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  I cringe.  The hard part is getting people who are resistant to change on board.

How is Roundtable helpful to you?

One of the most helpful tools in accomplishing the above lately is Roundtable, where we can have a brainstorming session virtually, even piecemeal.  It is a space for us to gather information and share our pearls of wisdom, our frustrations, and our sarcasm (that last one may be just me) and have it be left as a resource for future reference and future generations to learn from, with the added technological organization of cataloging and tagging.  Plus y’all have been SO MUCH FUN TO WORK WITH!