Long-time poll worker shares thoughts on county election

Published 3:30 pm Sunday, August 6, 2023

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NATCHEZ — “Busy” and “close” are two words Doris Gordon used to describe how she thinks Tuesday’s primary election will go for Adams County.

As a poll worker of approximately 25 years, Gordon knows a thing or two about elections.

Typically the busiest elections are local, such as the Mayor and Board of Aldermen and Supervisors elections, Gordon said.

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And with three running for one supervisor’s seat, there’s bound to be a runoff.

Election Commissioner Larry Gardner also said he also believes this election will be busier than most. Approximately 400 people voted absentee compared to around 900 who voted absentee four years ago, “and that’s with both parties combined,” Gardner said. However, Gardner expects more people will be showing up in person to vote on election day.

“I think it’s going to be busy and I think it’s going to be a very close election,” Gordon said. “It all depends on who’s running. The slowest elections are usually the runoffs.”

Gordon said her sister got her into being a poll worker in the late 1990s.

A lot has changed since those days, she said, “Like the new machines we have now.”

“So much has happened since then. Even though we vote on paper again, we have machines that push the card through automatically. It’s different but more convenient than it was back then.”

In those 25 years, there have been few surprises. Once was last November when someone hit a utility pole, and the lights went out at her precinct.

“We had three people come in after the lights went out, and that machine still let them vote,” she said. “There’s a battery, but it only lasts for so long. We were fortunate that the machine still let them vote.”

For a poll worker, election day starts at 6 a.m., one hour before the polls open for setup and ends anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour after the polls close at 7 p.m. During those 12 to 14 hours, there is no leaving the polling place.

“Most of us bring our lunch with us or have someone bring us lunch because we can’t leave,” she said.

Gordon said when she first started working polls, she was employed at Walmart.

“I worked for Walmart for 33 years and after that was off for a year traveling,” she said. “Now I work at a daycare in Broadmoor, First Class Academy.”

To become a poll worker wasn’t hard, she said. There are a couple of hours of training she goes through each year.

“My first time, they showed me what I needed to do,” she said. “You have to be a registered voter and you have to vote in order to work at the polls.”

Mostly Gordon works at the Carpenter Precinct on Madison Street.

She worked with Ornsby Young until, eventually, Young retired, and Gordon took her place.

She was teaching me different stuff until her health wouldn’t allow her to do it anymore,” Gordon said. “They pushed me on in there.”

Each polling place has different jobs for the poll workers, and Gordon has done just about all of them, from signing people in to bailiff.

The bailiff is responsible for “keeping the peace” and making sure all rules are being followed, Gordon said.

“You make sure people don’t lag around or talk too much. You can’t come in with T-shirts advertising a candidate. That’s a no-no. Before the poll opens, the bailiff has to go outside and make sure the (campaign) materials are not within 150 feet of the door.”

Those working the registration tables have the important job of checking for IDs and signing their initials on the back of each ballot. Without a signature, the votes can’t be counted, she said.

Gordon said the most important part, and the part she most enjoys, “When they come in our building, we greet them.”

“I love meeting people and interacting with them, and when someone new comes in, getting to know them,” she said. “You know your faithful ones. … You have to be patient with anyone who comes in and treat them as you want to be treated.”