Poll workers rise to the occasion on Election Day
By ANNA GILGOFF
Special to The Press
Even with nearly a 100 million votes cast before Election Day this year, a great many voters were welcomed by local volunteers committed to providing their fellow citizens with the final opportunity to vote in 2020.
In-person voters lined up at fire stations, churches and other polling places on Election Day, Nov. 3.
At one such polling place, St. Peter’s UCC Church, Lynnville, Ann Savkova served as a clerk of the election.
“I always said I would like to serve as a poll worker when I retired,” she said. “And, I am delighted to fulfill that dream, working with others who esteem this essential role in a democracy as I do.
“I have served as a clerk of the elections in two previous election cycles, both of those at St. Peter’s.”
Kempton resident, Anne Towne Priester, was stationed at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church, Allentown.
Even though she volunteered officially as a Spanish interpreter, she was prepared for any contingency.
Working as an interpreter seemed to be a no-brainer for Priester.
“I’ve spent the last two years since I retired, and especially since COVID-19 hit, working on my Spanish,” she explained. “Probably the majority of what I do will be routine kinds of things that need doing.
“[I’ll probably be] explaining how to check in, or how to fill out the paper ballots and scan them into the voting machines.”
For poll workers, such protocols are essential.
“In the past, my role has been to set up and break down, greet voters, find them on the voting roster, have them sign in and hand them their paper ballot, explaining any instructions to them,” Savkova said. “As a clerk of the elections, I have whatever duties the Judge of the Election assigns me.”
Since elections are a cornerstone of democracy, training the poll workers in advance of Election Day is an important first step of the process.
Priester attended a training session at Muhlenberg College, where she was instructed on how the machines work and how to answer people’s questions.
She also was shown several possible scenarios that could arise, including “what to do if we can’t find someone’s name in our records or what to do if we encounter people intimidating voters.”
Savkova also trained before Election Day.
“The County Board of Elections provides virtual training sessions throughout the month of October,” she explained. “Poll workers only need attend one session as the training is comprehensive.”
“The Judge of the Election attends an in-person training session, receives a handbook, and updates poll workers as laws and rules change,” she added.
Working at the polls is a civic calling for volunteers.
“I kept hearing about how much they needed poll workers, and since I’m retired, I have a lot of free time,” Priester said.
Consequently, poll workers feel a keen responsibility.
“We hear so much about the problems we could have this election,” Priester said.
“I wanted to do what I could to make it go as smoothly as possible.”
“We represent both parties but we do not in any way disclose who is affiliated with which party,” Savkova said.
“We are there to help our neighbors let their voice be heard through their vote.”