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October 30, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CST
When the alarm sounds at dawn for Dorothy Grant, she rushes out of bed and races to the election polls. Grant, a retired junior high history teacher, has been a Columbia resident for 65 years and a faithful voter for 44. The 4:30 a.m. roll call might deter some, but for this poll volunteer, who hasn’t missed working a single local or national election in the past 10 years, the only challenge is staying awake long enough to see the returns.
Describe a typical day at the polls.
As supervisory judges, we are responsible for setting up the polls, handing out the ballots and checking to see if the people who come in are registered at the correct precinct. At the end of the day, we’re responsible for getting the ballots together and taking them to the county clerks. We’re there to assist people if they need help. It is a long day, but it’s usually a very enjoyable day. I get to see people at the election polls who I don’t get to see any other time.
How do you prepare for Election Day?
The County Clerk’s office has paid training sessions where they go over all of the rules. They also give us a big notebook. I read through it very carefully, just to refresh my mind because there are always things that you might forget or some things that might change. I usually don’t sleep very much that night before because I’m always afraid the power will go out or the alarm will turn off. Then the night after the election, I just die!
What do you enjoy most?
Getting to see all of the different people who come in. There are some people who vote only during presidential elections. You won’t see them for another four years. It’s very interesting to see the young people come in when they’re voting for the first time.
What is the most difficult aspect?
Sometimes when they hold registrations at different places, people register, and the people holding the registry won’t turn them in. We once had a student who had signed up to vote at his high school, and his registration didn’t get turned in or was turned in late. We had to tell this young person on his first Election Day, “I’m sorry, but you can’t vote.”
How did you get started?
I always enjoyed politics and taught history, and I just felt it was my civic duty to volunteer. Several people asked when I retired, “Why don’t you come work the election?” I was initially friends with many of the people who I worked with. Most are members of Olivet Church.
How do you unwind after a day at the polls?
If I can stay awake, I’ll stay up until we know who will win. The first election I remember is listening to the returns in ’52 when Eisenhower ran against Stevenson. I was about 10 years old at the time.
Do you have any advice for new voters?
Be sure you take your ID, either your voter registration card or driver’s license. And never be afraid to ask questions.