At 85 and 84, Lou and Dot LaMarche were the senior poll workers at the Farragut Town Hall early voting precinct. They’ve worked a lot of elections, but this one has been different, Dot says.
First of all, there were the lines, which frequently wrapped around Town Hall. Farragut was the second busiest precinct in the county, second only to Downtown West.
There has also been a wider variety of voters. More young people are voting, she says, and more are voting for the first time.
Numerous COVID-19 safety measures and new paper ballots also made voting in 2020 a new experience. But in spite of long lines, social distancing and political tensions, the vast majority of voters were kind and expressed gratitude to poll workers.
“It makes me feel good about our city,” she says.
Dot was especially proud that her fellow poll workers made it a priority to seek out those who needed help voting. A couple of workers were stationed outside Town Hall to watch for elderly or wheelchair-bound voters who needed to move to the front of the line.
“You get satisfaction and really feel like you’re doing something important when you’re able to see someone elderly vote in person,” she says.
One of the rules of being a poll worker is that politics are not discussed. Voters are not allowed to bring campaigns into the precincts, either, and a few were asked to remove hats and shirts with political messages, Dot says.
While masks were required inside Town Hall, they were not required at the polls, and a few refused to wear them.
“We let them do their own thing. We were anxious for them to get out,” she says.
Occasionally, a voter waited in a long line only to realize they didn’t have the required identification, which disappointed poll workers as well as the voter. Acceptable forms of I.D. include a Tennessee driver’s license with photo, a U.S. Passport or a photo I.D. issued by the federal or Tennessee state government. College I.D.s are not acceptable. (For more information, visit here.)
Farragut precinct officers Paul Whalen and Linda Pasarilla supervised a staff of 21 during early voting. Paul spoke to the group each morning before the polls opened to share comments from the community and review any mistakes. He encouraged them to keep up the good work.
Dot has high praise for her fellow poll workers. The pay is minimal and the hours can be long. Some worked from opening to closing, which made for 12-hour days last week. But the team at Town Hall made the work enjoyable.
“It was a very pleasant situation to work in. It could be stressful, but if you have a problem, you can ask for help.”
She considers it a privilege to help members of the community exercise their right to vote. She reminds those who haven’t voted to get to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3, and watch for the American flag on the screen after turning in their ballots.
“Please wait for the flag. Then you’ll know your vote has been recorded.”
Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.