Lake Norman & Mooresville

Poll workers help make democracy work for all

I hate politics.

I hate the phone calls and mailings that tell me every single candidate is likely to take all my money, give away my job, raise the crime rate and waste our tax money.

I hate that the most important thing seems to be defeating the other side, rather than looking for good solutions. I hate to see so much money spent on politics that could be used for better purposes.

But, as much as I hate politics, I love democracy. I love the beauty of our system of checks and balances. I love the fact that at regular intervals, we get to choose the people we want to represent us.

I love the orderly transition that comes with changes in leadership, and I really love knowing that no matter who wins what race, the next day I can still enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I got thinking about what it takes to make democracy work. I realized none of it would be possible without the people who work at our polling places and show us how to cast our ballots.

Thanks to the helpful folks at the board of elections, I was able to talk with some eastern Cabarrus poll workers.

Rose Barrier, Susan Haigler and John Parker each hold the title “chief judge” at their precincts: Mount Pleasant, Midland and Georgeville, respectively.

They are responsible for staffing the polling place, making sure everything runs smoothly and, at the end of the day, transporting the ballots to the county Board of Elections.

Each has been working at the polls for so long they can't remember how they got started. They all recall that “someone” asked them to help so they got involved, enjoyed it, and haven't stopped since.

Each of them seemed surprised when I asked them why they would be willing to give up their time to work at the polls. It just seems natural to these folks to volunteer, and they all enjoy being a part of the electoral process.

Something I hadn't realized about poll workers is that they aren't allowed to leave the polling place all day. They are there when the polls open at 6:30 a.m., and they stay after voting ends at 7:30 p.m.

Rose Barrier told me that in Mount Pleasant, they generally bring things like handwork or books to occupy their time when the turnout is low. At Georgeville, John Parker said, the poll workers have a day-long potluck meal.

This year, however, everyone is expecting a busy day, so the chief judges aren't anticipating a lot of time for reading or coffee breaks.

I asked Susan Haigler what time things generally slow on a busy election day, thinking I would have some insider information on the best time to vote.

Unfortunately, she said, there really isn't a slow time. Midland has become one of Cabarrus County's largest precincts, and she's expecting a consistently busy day.

Parker is retired from the postal service, but Barrier and Haigler take time off from their regular jobs to work at the polls. All three take the responsibility of chief judge very seriously.

Parker told me he's always telling the folks who work with him how important they are. Barrier talked about making sure voters understand how to vote properly.

She likens voting to filling in those little ovals on the standardized tests we all took in school. She makes sure everyone who comes to the polls fills out their ballot completely and correctly.

Haigler said sometimes the sense of responsibility can be stressful and overwhelming, but she and the other chief judges talked repeatedly about the excellent support they get from the county and from the other poll workers, who all do an outstanding job.

Voting really is an awesome responsibility and duty. But it would be impossible without people like Rose Barrier, Susan Haigler and John Parker, who do their jobs so well to make sure we can vote in a proper, timely and comfortable manner.

When you go vote this week, be sure to say “thanks” to your neighbors who are giving up their time so we can participate in our democracy. Is this a great country, or what?