Poll workers get ready for Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2000

Even though local schools have been closed for the summer for a few weeks, poll workers from Butler County were attending a class to continue learning what their duties will be on June 6.

Over 100 volunteers gathered at the Ritz Theatre to familiarize themselves with the equipment, which some have not seen since last November, and to become acquatinted with the regulations of voting.

Probate Judge MacDonald Russell led the class, standing on-stage with all the equipment used in casting votes. He thanked the workers, many who have been volunteering for years, for all the honest work they have done since he took office six years ago.

"All of you are fair and honest people, and if anyone comes to me and says otherwise, they might have to battle with me," he said.

Tap Cates, who has been a poll worker for 56 years, said it is informative to have a refresher course in operating the equipment because it has changed so much through the years. Cates remembered the days of voting in booths with curtains, and even could recall people casting votes by placing them in cans.

"The biggest thing is learning how to put the ballots in the machine correctly because we want everyone's vote to be counted," Cates said.

Russell walked the poll workers through the voting process, just as if he were a voter on election day. He told them about all the equipment, such as the ballots, amendment ballots and the machine itself.

Russell demonstrated how the machine works by slipping a marked ballot through the machine. When the voting is finished for the day, the machine will tally the votes for each candidate by itself. He also instructed the group on how to do maintenance on the machine, such as changing the paper rolls.

Russell also stressed that those working the polls should never campaign for candidates and should always take their time to ensure no mistakes are made.

Each inspector, who is the person chosen to be in charge of his or her poll, was given a key to the voting machine, as well as written instructions for its use. Other volunteers were given sample ballots to become aquatinted with their appearance.

A few poll workers asked questions throughout the period about what Russell was illustrating to be able to better serve the voters when the time comes.

Jack Gafford, a volunteer at the Bolling poll house, said he thought the session would better prepare everyone for what will or might happen on June 6.

"Not many people realize that we have an hour of hard work after the polls close before we are finished with the voting," Gafford said. "These new machines definitely make things easier because we don't have to physically count the votes ourselves.

Many of the volunteers, such as Bennie Payne, a poll worker for 10 years, admitted they enjoyed being poll workers and attending these courses, not just to meet people, but to view for themselves the members of the community taking advantage of their freedom.