When millions of Americans show up at their polling place to vote today, each of them will be greeted by their precinct’s pollworkers.
It is the pollworkers who sign in voters, doll out their ballots and answer those last minute procedural questions.
“For about 20 years, or longer,” Barbara Padgett, 73, has been one of those patient pollworkers.
Padgett is passionate about the democratic process and her role as a pollworker in it.
“I have concern for the people and I am there to help them anyway I can to get their votes out,” she said.
“I really think it is a privilege for every American citizen to vote. It’s a freedom and a privilege. It is there for everyone and we need to exert that right,” Padgett said. “Our forefathers started this. They worked hard for it. It gives us a voice in our own government. To me, it is just very important to vote. Regardless if you are a Democrat or a Republican, as long as you use your privilege and vote.”
Padgett is one of four pollworkers at the Kyova Precinct, which votes at the Kyova Mall with about a dozen other precincts. Three of the four pollworkers at the Kyova Precinct are named Barbara, she laughs. There is Padgett, Barb Caudill and Barb Hall and Hall’s mother, Helen Cheek, who has spent 50 years working the polls and will retire following tonight’s election.
Pollworkers develop friendships over the years and look forward to spending the day together, said Padgett. “It’s just like a big family.”
Today will be a long day for pollworkers. Padgett will rise at 3:30 a.m. to get to the polling station by 5:00 a.m. In Kentucky, the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by the time voting tapes are delivered to the courthouse it will be close to 7 p.m. or later.
The long hours don’t bother her.
“I get so excited being there and having so many people out to vote, it doesn’t seem that long,” she said. “We take a big thermos of coffee and snacks,’ she added, noting Callihan’s Restaurant will serve pollworkers lunch.
“We just have a good time. I love it. I really do love it,” she said, “I love working the polls, I love seeing the people and you really do make some good, lasting friends.”
Padgett said she has also gotten to know many voters well over the years. “Certain families, you can count on every one of them to be there to vote,” she said.
“I just love it when everyone comes out to vote,” she said. “I tell everybody, if you don’t vote, you can’t gripe.”
Turnout is expected to be large today, and Padgett is ready.
“I really hope so,” she said. “Most presidential elections are big. I just want every body to come and vote, regardless of how they vote.”
By her memory, the busiest year ever turnoout was in 2004 when President George W. Bush defeated Senator John Kerry. According to state statistics, she is right. That year, 64.7 percent of registered headed to the polls. It was the largest turnout in Kentucky since 1992, when 73 percent of registered Kentucky voters helped then former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton defeat incumbent President George H.W. Bush.
“I think it will be steady all day,” said Padgett. The busiest times at the polls are when they open at 6 a.m., during lunch time and between 4:30 p.m. and closing time at 6 p.m.
She advised voters to “be patient.” “We try to get them in and out,” she said.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.