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Poll workers key in election process

Some voters take for granted that when they arrive at the pollsthere will be workers there to help them sign in and work themachines, but it may not occur to many what it takes to do thatjob.

Many of the poll workers who spend their election days at theprecincts in Lincoln County are retired citizens, and many aresimply political enthusiasts. There are also many who do it becauseit’s a help to the community.

But one thing they all agree on is working the polls at electiontime can be a good way to catch up with people of the community, aswell as their fellow poll workers.

“I do it because it’s a privilege,” said Aldora Fells, whomanned the Vaughan precinct during Tuesday’s historic election “Andit’s more fun than just being a voter. We bring snacks.”

Fells said she and fellow poll workers Laverne Smith, Cora MarySmith and Kelly Smith coordinated what snacks they would bring andwho would be in charge of each.

“I brought bags of different kinds of chips,” she said. “We’vealso got sandwiches and drinks.”

The setup is a good social one for the ladies. They can usuallysnack and chat and cool their heels.

Workers have to be at the polls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., notincluding setup and time spent returning ballot boxes and otheritems to the courthouse after the election is over. With pollmanagers earning $100 for the day and workers getting $80, pay isnot the main motivation for the election staffers.

Deborah Smith, just down the road at the Zetus precinct, saidthe laid-back atmosphere is a large part of the fun at Zetus aswell – when they have time.

“We usually just sit and talk and eat,” she said, laughing. “Ifwe have time we can gain like 5-10 pounds as a group!”

But Tuesday’s election was not one that was good for thesnacking part of poll working.

Workers at most polls said there was a steady stream of votersall day long. Many polls already had more than half of theirregistered voters on the books by lunchtime.

“As busy as it is today, we may not get to eat,” Smith saidTuesday.

Fells agreed that it was one of the bigger elections she’sseen.

“These are usually mostly people we know, but this time thereare a lot I haven’t seen before,” she said.

Poll worker Bonita Bullock, who managed the Halbert Heightsprecinct at Central Fire Station, said she thought the turnout wasthe largest in recent history because of the interest in thepresidential election.

“Four years ago it was like this,” she said. “Usually everypresidential election it’s like this. People understand theimportance of electing a new president.”

And poll workers all have stories about how it was a harder jobin the days before the voting machines.

“We had one once that came in and didn’t trust the machines,”Bullock said. “They wanted to submit a paper ballot.”

Eloise Porter said the ballots used to have to be counted byhand, just to make sure they matched the numbers in the books.

“We had to count until it all tallied out,” she said. “Iremember we were here all night one year.”

Bullock said the technology was a little slow to catch on, andsome people still ask for help. But overall it has been a successwith the voters.

“At first it was 50/50 on the new machines,” Bullock said. “Somepeople were a little leery because they didn’t know where theirvote goes once they put it in the computer. But once they realizedwe had these memory cards that record them, it made them feel alittle better.”