Come Tuesday morning most people will still be in bed when poll workers head for their posts at Washington County's 56 voting precincts for the 2011 general election.
"I'm usually there by 5:30 a.m.-there's a lot to get done by the time polls open at 6:30," said Jim Rapp, 53, of Muskingum Township who has worked the polls for the last three years.
Poll workers at each precinct are comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, but Rapp said party affiliation takes a back seat as workers prepare the polls for voters, including placing flags and signs, as well as making sure disabled voters can get into the polling place.
The Marietta Times
Part-time gardener Jim Rapp checks on the last of the summer flowers at his home near Highland Ridge Road Sunday afternoon. Rapp is among a couple hundred workers who will man the polls during Tuesday’s general election in Washington County.
"There's a lot of paperwork to get ready, too, but our team works well together, and can set up the polls in about a half hour to 45 minutes," he said. "The polls absolutely have to be ready for voters by 6:30 a.m."
Before he became a poll worker, Rapp said he volunteered for years as a "poll checker."
"Both parties would send someone to the polls in the morning and afternoon on election day, and they would check a list of voters to see who had voted and who had not," he said. "Then we would go back and call those registered voters who had not voted to remind them to go to the polls."
Rapp said sometimes people just needed transportation to the polls, so he would pick them up and take them to their precinct to vote.
Later he became a "poll observer" who helped make sure the poll workers were doing their jobs and that no voters were being turned away.
"This will be my third general election as a poll worker," Rapp said. "When I originally started I thought I'd just do it for a year or so. Now I really enjoy it. We make sure everyone who's eligible to vote gets the chance to vote."
Patsy Hupp, 70, of Marietta, is a presiding judge and poll worker at the Knights of Columbus Hall in the Harmar district. She's worked the polls for at least six years.
"I have a great crew," she said. "We work from 6:30 a.m. until the polls close at 7:30 p.m., but everyone tries to get there to set up by 5:30 a.m. The coffee pot is set up the night before so it's ready to go Tuesday morning. It's a long day, but I do enjoy it."
Hupp (no relation to Washington County Election Board Deputy Director Tara Hupp) said poll workers receive training every year for review and to keep them updated on any recent changes to the elections process.
"There's a lot to know, but it's also good to reinforce what you've already learned during past elections," she said. "And we have very good poll workers. We couldn't do it without them."
Hupp is hopeful the weather will be dry and sunny this election day, for voters, as well as for poll workers who will have to spend some time outdoors.
"We have to regularly walk the parking lot to make sure there's no one campaigning near the polls, and we have to provide curbside voting for people who are disabled and can't get out of their cars," she said. "It was really raining hard last year, but we had one person from each party who made several trips in the pouring rain to assist curbside voters."
Janet Knowlton, 60, usually works the Warren South precinct on election day-she's been a poll worker for more than 16 years now.
But she's taking some time out from this year's election to recuperate from recent surgery.
"I've also worked the polls in Devola and Marietta when they need someone," Knowlton said. "I started as a substitute poll worker until a vacancy opened in my precinct."
She said her mother-in-law worked the polls for years in Salem Township, and her grandfather was also a longtime poll worker.
"So I thought I'd just like to try it," Knowlton said. "When I started we had the lever-operated voting machines, and we're still using paper ballots, although in Morgan County they're using computer touch-screens."
She said poll workers can now receive most of their training online via the Internet.
"It's convenient, but I still think the hands-on training is best," Knowlton added.
Even the best training can't prepare poll workers for the unexpected.
"One year we ran completely out of ballots on election day," Knowlton said. "The board of elections had to print new ballots and delivered them to the precinct."
Although she'll miss serving this election, Knowlton plans to be back on track for the March primary election.
"I do enjoy being a poll worker," she said. "It's just nice to be with people you may not see but twice a year."