• Oklahoma county seeks more polling workers for elections

    By: JOY HAMPTON, The Norman Transcript

    NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Cleveland County Election Board officials say with three hotly contested elections coming up, they are in need of more precinct workers.

    The hours are long and the pay is low, but for many, like Noble resident Tracy Mamone, the rewards are worth the effort. In the last couple of years, Mamone has worked a dozen elections.

    "I think it was a newspaper originally that gave me an idea that I should help out," Mamone said. "I have a strong personal interest in politics, and I learned that they have a real need for officials."

    Mamone is a mother of three, and she believes serving as a precinct official sets a good example for her daughters, as well as filling a need for the community.

    "My older two daughters are very active voters and pay attention to what's on the ballot," Mamone said. "You have to keep your personal politics out of it, but I was drawn to the voting process and making sure they have enough people to keep all the precincts going."

    Mamone said the prerequisite training provides a lot of information and preparation for the job.

    "We'll never put together a group of all new people," Cleveland County Election Board Secretary Bryant Rains said. "At least one of the three working on election day will be an experienced person."

    Rains would like to get 100 more polling place workers signed up and trained for the upcoming elections, the Norman Transcript reported .

    "Cleveland County has 84 precincts and, by law, each must have at least three officials: an inspector, a judge and a clerk," Assistant Secretary Kathy Singer said. "There are three more elections this year: June 26, Aug. 28 and Nov. 6. Because of the anticipated high volume of those elections, we'd like to have extra workers at the large precincts."

    Precinct Official Coordinator Joy Harris said right now, they have about 260 workers, but more are needed.

    "You never know on election day who's going to call in sick," Harris said. "It's always good to have extras."

    Precinct officials get paid for their services. Inspectors receive $97 plus mileage, while clerks and judges get $87 for the day.

    The inspector is responsible for picking up supplies from the election board office before the election and returning them on election night. The inspector also contacts the judge and clerk before the election to confirm they will be able to work.

    Harris said inspectors are in particularly high demand.

    The judge assists the voters in signing the precinct registry and checking voter identification. The clerk distributes the appropriate ballot(s) to the voter.

    "The closer the election comes, the more people call that say they can't work," Harris said.

    Precinct officials must be registered voters in Cleveland County and can either fill out an application at clevelandcountyelectionboard.com or call the election board at 366-0210.

    Harris schedules the required training sessions for election workers. The training is free.

    "I want them to understand that the day is long, and while the pay isn't great, it's a great community service," Rains said. "We can't do it without them."

    All precinct officials must be at their assigned polling place at 6:30 a.m. on election day. The day ends sometime after 7 p.m., after the polls have closed, when all ballots have been accounted for and all materials have been packed.

    Inspectors transport supplies to the election board office, and their day ends once they have delivered them successfully.

    Working a polling place can be a great chance to get to know neighbors, as well as assisting the voting process, Harris said.

    "A lot of them feel like it's their civic duty, and most of the time, they get to work within their neighborhood," Harris said. "They'll never work more than one day a month. In the odd years, it's slower, and they work less."

    Mamone said while she often works at a remote site, far from her neighborhood, she still has fun.

    "I really enjoy interacting with all different types of people and making sure the voting process goes smoothly," she said. "It is a long day, but you wind up enjoying yourself. If it's a slow day, people bring a book or visit and enjoy each other's company. The time goes by so much faster than you expect it to."

    There are other elections where you barely have time to eat, and that goes by quickly, she said. Precinct officials bring their own lunch and snacks.

    "You're not able to leave because you have to be there at all times," she said. "It's definitely a passion, it's not for the money. Election days are for the love of the process."


    Information from: The Norman Transcript, http://www.normantranscript.com

    An AP Member Exchange shared by The Norman Transcript.

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