Poll worker an Election Day staple

She’ll be staffing the Newberry West precinct in western Miami County with fellow election poll workers.

It’s a task, and a commitment, that began with the fall 1960 presidential election between Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard M. Nixon.

A year after her marriage to Don Magee, she didn’t think twice when her new father-in-law, a Republican central committee member, asked if she would be interested in trying her hand as a poll worker. “I said, ‘Sure!’” Magee recalled.

The precinct at that time was voted in tight quarters at the old Bradford library. Voters made their decisions on folded paper ballots that were placed in a ballot box for counting.

It was 1 a.m. by the time the precinct paperwork was balanced, but that didn’t scare her off.

She’s worked nearly every election since, missing one a few years ago when she woke up Election Day with a bad case of the flu.

Another time, she overslept. “I had less than one-half hour to pull myself together and get there, but I made it,” she said.

Magee said the precinct, with voting now at the Bradford Fire Department, has not had any major difficulties over the years.

She recalls one election when a truck driver going through town saw the flags and signs indicating the polling location and stopped to see if he could vote. A few years ago, the day wasn’t as smooth when an attempt to consolidate several polling places in one location caused confusion. It led to a return to the previous voting sites.

Working at the polls has helped her meet more people in the township, Magee said. “I feel this is something if we have the opportunity to give back, we should do it,” she said.

She’s worked several years with the other Newberry West poll workers.

“We always have a very good rapport. We assist each other. We bring in food for the day. We share recipes,” she said of the down time between voters. The first to arrive at the polls, Magee said she likes to be early to get organized and fulfill one of her key tasks of making the coffee.

Now a presiding judge in charge of the polling location, Magee said she couldn’t emphasize enough the contribution of each team member.

The largest Election Day change in recent years has been the conversion to the touch-screen voting machines. Paper ballots still are available but very few are used, unless someone needs to vote a provisional ballot.

Magee said she’d recommend Election Day work to others. “It think it’s a very good experience, a way you can give back to your community. I have always enjoyed it,” she said. “I look forward to it.”

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