Service, Socializing, Brownies and Breakfast Casserole: Pollworkers in Calhoun County, AL

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[Image via Flickr user bamaboy1941]

Voting has already begun in many Super Tuesday states, and in the run-up I’ve had several stories about election officials’ readiness for the big day. But today really belongs to voters – and to the women and men working at the polls to help them cast their ballots. The Anniston Star has a really nice piece profiling the people who are on the job today in Calhoun County, AL:

Today is a big day on many Americans’ political calendars, but for local poll workers, it’s even bigger. For them, it’s a chance to both socialize with their neighbors and assist voters in the election process.  

In Calhoun County, Gail Dormon has been part of the poll worker process for some 15 years. Now an inspector at First Presbyterian Church in Anniston, she appreciates the social ritual involved.

“I enjoy seeing the people. It’s just like homecoming. We just talk and visit,” she said.

Cindy Evans has also worked the polls around 15 years at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Glencoe. “You learn a lot about the political process and you get to see people you don’t ordinarily see,” Evans said.

They both said they were happy Calhoun County upgraded voting machines last year. In the past, if voters made errors on their ballots, such as over-voting or stray marks, they had to fill out another ballot. The new machines give voters the option to let a ballot go through instead. Poll workers press buttons to eject the ballot or allow it to pass through.

But workers are looking forward to more than just socializing and new machines.

Because they spend the entire day at polling locations, workers bring their own food. “We’ve had brownies with icing and cake too. I think one lady is bringing soup tomorrow,” Dormon said.

Geraldine Player has worked at the polls for almost 60 years, and said she doesn’t remember her first time.  

“I haven’t found a stopping place. My dad was an inspector for years and he was really patriotic,” she said.

Player worked as a clerk until her father died in 1990. She has worked as an inspector ever since, and currently works at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Election Day is an extended day – but can seem even longer to pollworkers when no one votes:

It’s a long day of work, entailing some duties the voter never sees.

“You don’t just go home once voting is over,” Evans said.

Workers have to put several forms in their correct envelopes and put supplies into boxes. The voting machines have eight tapes of voting results that have to be separated for distribution to organizations such as the county probate office and the Calhoun County Republican and Democratic parties.

“I get there at 6 [a.m.] and by the time I go to the Sheriff’s Office and get home it might be 9 [p.m.] or 9:30,” Player said. She said that presidential elections make the time pass quickly. But during other elections, the opposite may occur.

“I can remember one time we voted 17 people, and that day almost never passed,” she said. The workers played bridge and read books and magazines to pass time.

Shirley Miller, chief clerk for the Calhoun County Probate Office, said the county has approximately 325 poll workers. Miller said Alabama Code requires counties to have at least four workers at each polling location. Some large precincts, such as Saks High School and First Methodist Church in Weaver, have around 14 workers. The county has 45 polling locations, according to the Calhoun County website.

Workers must be registered voters and must work in the precinct where they vote. They earn $100 for working and $25 for attending a training session that lasts an hour and a half.

 Super Tuesday isn’t likely to match the crush of this November’s election, but it should be a pretty steady day in most communities – and the workers will be well-fed, as usual.

Player said Monday afternoon she was planning to take a breakfast casserole to work.

“Tomorrow there will be no reading. I expect a pretty good turnout,” she said.

If you’re voting today (or anytime) take a moment to appreciate, or even thank, your pollworkers for their service.

Do it nicely and maybe you’ll get a brownie to go with that “I Voted” sticker.

Stay tuned …

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