Low or high turnout, poll worker takes her job seriously

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Adams County poll worker Jo Chester does not see any difference between busy or slow days at the polls. She views her job the same.

&uot;If we didn’t have but a dozen (voters) we’d still have to have the same rules,&uot; she said.

Chester has been involved in Adams County elections since the 1970s and has worked for about the past 10 years as a receiving and returning manager for local elections.

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During Tuesday’s run-off between Oliver Diaz and Keith Starrett, she worked at the Oakland District 5 precinct at Lovely Lane Methodist Church in Morgantown.

Because the Supreme Court judge’s race was the only item on the ballot voter turnout was low, Chester said.

By 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, only 120 of more than 1,700 registered voters had voted at the precinct as compared to this month’s earlier election, when more than 1,000 people voted, Chester said.

But even with the lower numbers, Chester and her fellow poll workers take their job seriously.

&uot;Regardless of what we personally believe everybody gets a fair shake in the elections,&uot; she said.

The poll workers are responsible for handing out ballots and monitoring the voters while not interfering with a voter’s right to a secret ballot.

No matter what the voter turnout, &uot;you have to observe and make sure everything is still carried on in a legal way,&uot; she said.

This includes making sure campaign signs are kept at least 150 feet away from the door of the precinct and not making any comments about the candidates, she said.

As the receiving and returning manager at the Oakland precinct, Chester was responsible for picking up the ballots the day before the election and for returning the election results to the Adams County courthouse after the polls close.

Chester started out working with local elections by assisting local Republicans. She has also worked as a precinct bailiff.

&uot;It’s interesting, and I’m certainly concerned about how our country goes and how are local politics go,&uot; Chester said about the work.

With her experience with elections, Chester has some advise for voters in Florida.

They need to purchase a paper ballot system similar to what is used in Adams County, she said.

That system counts all the ballots together and it is much easier to operate, she said.

And Chester should know with her years of experience.

One of her unusual election memories took place during the 1980s.

The poll workers were operating an old style of voting booths that covered voters from the public with a curtain. It was raining at the time and the precinct had a leaking roof.

&uot;We had umbrellas over the machines to keep the water out of the machines while the people voted,&uot; she said.

Chester hopes one good thing comes out of the Florida election.

&uot;I think it’s important that people vote and hopefully everyone will realize now how really important it is, she said.