Poll workers enjoy friends, socializing during elections

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:49 PM
Last updated Thursday, July 31, 2014 1:16 AM
  • Follow Elections

The four women working the polls at Crawford Avenue Baptist Church sat around a table during a lull in voters for Tuesday’s primary runoff, eating lunch together and socializing.

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Poll Officers Suzanna Alling (from left), Vernice Stokes, and Lois Stellern laughed together as they worked the express voting table at the Bernie Ward Community Center on Tuesday.    SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Poll Officers Suzanna Alling (from left), Vernice Stokes, and Lois Stellern laughed together as they worked the express voting table at the Bernie Ward Community Center on Tuesday.

Usually, they each bring a dish to share for a potluck lunch, which leaves them something to nibble on as the afternoon wears on.

A couple of them brought books to read, but even though they had been there since 6 a.m. and assisted only about 40 voters by 1 p.m., they hadn’t gotten around to reading them.

Lan Jones didn’t even have a book.

“I didn’t bring anything because I knew I’d have a good time,” she said.

Jones, Joan Anderson, Debbie Jones and Ruby Quarles work nearly every election together and have grown to enjoy one another’s company.

“You’ve got to like the people you work with,” Quarles said.

On election day, they spend about 14 hours together.

Big elections are busy, but with only two local runoff contests on the ballot, Tuesday’s pace was much slower, leaving plenty of time to catch up on one another’s families.

The nearly half-dozen workers
at Julian Smith Casino did not find themselves with quite as leisurely a pace.

“We’re very fortunate here,” poll manager Judy Blackstone said.

“Even though there may not be somebody in here every second, we don’t have time to open a book or a magazine.”

Blackstone said she did bring a book, a couple of magazines and some sales papers to look through, but she spent most of her downtime talking to her sister, assistant manager Janet Masters, and speaking with voters such as Marian Harelik.

Blackstone has been a poll worker for more than 20 years, and Harelik said the main reason she doesn’t vote an absentee ballot is that she enjoys the opportunity to visit with Blackstone and Masters.

“You feel so good about knowing you’re voting, but it also makes you feel good to know that you see people that are familiar,” she said. “They are so nice, and they were so nice when my mom passed away.”

The blanket that Sue Garrett has been knitting sat untouched as she worked the polls at Bernie Ward.

“I was thinking we’d have less voters today. That’s why I brought my knitting,” she said.

She talked with Vernice Stokes and Lois Stellern between helping a steady stream of voters who filed through the polling place about midafternoon.

Stokes said they sometimes spend their time talking to voters, maybe exchanging recipes with each other, and at other times looking up answers to questions in the polling station manuals. But overall, even for a smaller election, they hadn’t had much downtime.

“We stay pretty busy,” she said.

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Answers: 1. 27; 2. Malaysia Airlines; 3. Virginia; 4. Ford

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