Columnists

Early Voting Polls Slow, Election Day is Here

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Noblesville’s Julia Kozicki (left) arrives for Early Voting on Friday afternoon at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds in Noblesville, where she draws the attention of poll workers Nancy Hartley (right), and Sandra Laux (second from right)  and Dottie Young (standing left) and  Steve Shaw (standing right).

Poll workers played trivia games, worked on crossword puzzles and discussed their favorite movies and TV shows.

They read books, put together jigsaw puzzles and did “a lot of talking.”

These are just a few of the ways that poll workers pass the day while waiting for voters to come in.

Poll workers kept busy and passed the time during Early Voting, which started April 20 and ended at noon Monday, at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds’ Annex Building and at the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center in Noblesville. Registered voters who live anywhere in the county were allowed to vote early at either of the polling sites. Plus, there were also satellite locations in Carmel, Fishers and Westfield open through noon Monday.

Poll workers packed up at noon Monday in preparation for moving to new polling sites for Primary Election Day today, when polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Today, registered voters with a valid driver’s license cast their vote in their own precinct in Hamilton County.

Being a non-Presidential election year, the poll locations for Early Voting have experienced a light turnout, which means poll workers have had to find ways to pass the time while waiting on voters to check in and vote.

“It’s been very slow here. Even though this is our third time being out here, people still tend to migrate toward the Courthouse because that’s the place they’re familiar with,” said Steve Shaw, 72, Noblesville, poll inspector for the Early Voting location at the Fairgrounds. (A poll inspector is the leader of a voting location and ensures that the location opens and closes on time, oversees accounting of ballots and assists poll workers in their duties. He also answers questions from voters and addresses any concerns.)

Steve Shaw

“The last couple of days, we’ve had a really good turnout. Yesterday (Thursday), we had almost 100 people out here as opposed to 13 the first day,” he said. By noon Friday, the polling site had had just more than 40 voters, while the day before, there were 99 voters at the 4-H Fairgrounds polling site.

“It is a primary, and as we all know, a lot of people don’t get out to vote in the primary unfortunately … but they don’t realize that the off years are the ones that really set the tone for the presidential (year). And it’s really important locally, because you get the people you want in the place that you want.”          

Early on, during the less busy time, Shaw said some poll workers read author Mark Sullivan’s book, “The Last Green Valley,” and then discussed it.

There have also been a couple of lunchtime cookouts on Fridays. Shaw set up his barbecue grill just outside the back door of the 4-H Annex Building. One week, he served up hamburgers and hot dogs, and everyone else pitched in side dishes and chips. On Saturday, they ate pizza. Every day, poll workers take two different lunch shifts.

Poll worker Nancy Hartley, 69, Noblesville, brought in a Chinese coleslaw salad, chips and cookies for the cookouts.

She also brought in a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and put it out on a table for poll workers to pass the time when the polls weren’t busy. “People (poll workers), not the voters, could just drift over, and do that for five or 10 minutes,” she said. Hartley also reads and works crossword puzzles, and says the days go pretty fast. “You always get interrupted to do something different.”

Shift changes come every couple of hours, so that workers learn all of the jobs, from greeters to those checking in voters at the Poll Pads, which are used in place of paper poll books to check in voters and see whether or not they have voted.

Poll workers come from all walks of life, but most of them are retired.

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Pam and Joe Trexler of Cicero check in for Early Voting on Friday afternoon at the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds, with poll worker Nancy Hartley.

“You know one thing I really like is a lot of people my same age. So we have a lot in common,” said Dottie Young, 75, Noblesville. She’s been a poll worker since former President Barack Obama came into office, in 2009, she said.

Speaking of politicians, Young said, “We don’t talk about politics, because we’re not allowed to. We like everybody.”

When the polls open this morning, Young will be at the Government & Judicial Center polling place, and Hartley will work at Bethel Lutheran Church, the location of four Noblesville precincts.

Shaw is a retired North Elementary School teacher, who taught there for 34 years, and since 2010 has been a substitute teacher in grades K-5 for Noblesville elementaries.

Both he and his wife, Linda Shaw, who retired from Hamilton East Public Library in 2014, enjoy working the elections. She works part-time in the Judicial Center in the clerk’s office during election timing.

Shaw said, “It gives me something to do, and I’m a people person.”

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com

Want MORE?

Primary Election Day polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Deadline for absentee ballots is noon today. All mailed-in ballots must be received by the Election Office on or before 6 p.m. today. You can also drop off your ballot in person at the Clerk’s Office in Noblesville. To find your polling place, visit https://indianavoters.in.gov/or call Hamilton County Election Office at 317-776-8476.