Poll workers talk experience, 2020 changes

Jerrie Whiteley / Herald Democrat
Voters in Grayson County and across the nation went to the polls Tuesday as a part of November elections.

Sue Caylor and Phyllis Heflin have been election poll worker together for 20 years. They knew turn out for the 2020 Presidential election would be high, and the poll worker experience this year would be different.

With more than 100,000 people in the county, Grayson County Elections Administrator Deana Patterson said 45,678 individuals voted early in the Nov. 3 election. As of Monday, the GC's election administration had approximately 4,700 mail-in ballots for a voter turnout of 58 percent before Election Day.

"We expected it to be big, but it's been bigger than our expectation," Caylor said of the crowds who turned up to vote early.

While the crowds were big, Caylor said they were well behaved.

"The people, in all, have been very cooperative. They've done social distancing like we've ask them to and we've sanitized their hands and they've been very cooperative with that. They were wearing their face masks and we were wearing ours," she said of the voters.

She said they did have a few, very few, people who had to be asked to take off hats that referenced one political party or agenda or another. One guy had to be asked to turn his shirt inside out, she said, and a few were asked to turn their mask around because they violated electioneering standards, but people cooperated with the requests.

The two ladies worked the poll at the sub courthouse in Denison during early voting and were planning on being there on election day as well.

Election day started early for them, and workers planned to get there at around 6 a.m. and the day might end around 9-9:30 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch sometime along the way. 

Voters in Grayson County and across the nation went to the polls Tuesday as a part of November elections.

Caylor said they were able to accommodate 15 people with curbside voting during early voting and were happy to be able to do that. 

Those people were very grateful for the help, she said. 

"There was one lady who brought three of her friends down one at a time and we went out and voted them." 

"She said she was just so thankful that somebody would do that for them. But we have done it for years," Caylor said. The service is just getting more attention this year due to COVID-19 accommodations. 

"And we also have what's called a 'priority voter' where if someone is in a wheelchair or on oxygen or something, we go get them and bring them to the front of the line," she said She added that she has never had anyone complain about the practice.

"It's now a law, but we used to do it before it was a law," she said of giving priority to people who have extra hurdles to overcome to vote. 

Heflin said this will be her last election to work as a judge. She said when she first started working polls, she thought it was a volunteer position and was surprised when the election judge brought her some money for her work. 

In the time she has been working polls, the pay has doubled per hour, and she has appreciated that. But recently, it has also been a lot more people for her to help.

One of the things Heflin is really going to miss are the first time voters. 

"They are so excited," she said noting that it doesn't matter if the person is a teenager who is just becoming old enough to vote or an older person who just never voted before for whatever reason.

The excitement when they do it for the first time is something to behold.

"The saddest part is the parents can not take pictures of (the young adults) voting like they would like to do," she added.

"We suggest that they go out by the flag and take a picture under the vote flag," she said.

She said she will miss the people she has made friends with through the years. Caylor is one of those people and she said she is going to miss Heflin in December when Caylor will be back to work the runoff election for the state's District 30 senate seat between Shelley Luther and Drew Springer.

Patterson said having experienced election workers like Caylor and Heflin is wonderful for many reasons..

"They are so dedicated to assisting the voters in Grayson County and they work tirelessly," she said. She added that it has also been exciting to have a great group of new workers this election season.

She said though everyone works hard during the election season to make sure all voters are allowed to exercise their rights, all of the people it takes to orchestrate a successful election are happy when the season finally comes to an end. Even if only for a few weeks such as is the case this year with the special run off election looming. 

"There will be mail ballots that are eligible to be counted after Election Day. The reports that are posted on election night are always unofficial until the counts have been finalized. The totals released on election night include all ballots cast through election day," Patterson said in an email Monday evening.