By Mike Kinney
On Election Day, the Standard set out to catch a glimpse of some of our nation’s heroes. Not the politicians, of course, but rather the polling station workers who take their jobs to heart in order to protect American Democracy.
We chatted with busy Election Inspectors at three centrally located polling sites in Richmond: The Richmond Memorial Auditorium, the nearby Richmond Senior Citizen Center and Veterans Memorial Hall on 23rd Street. All three stations reported busy mornings and the expectation of a far-busier afternoon and evening for the highly-anticipated March 3 Presidential Primary Election. But that didn’t deter the poll workers we met. They don’t make a whole lot for their work (poll workers receive a stipend of $125 for clerks and $230 for inspectors for a very long day), but they are eager to ensure every vote is counted properly.
Contra Costa County’s 654,009 registered voters, of which 336,947 are Democrats and 127,333 Republican, have had options to vote early, either by mail or at early voting polling sites. Still, many voters chose the traditional route of going to their polling sites, which opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
By 11:45 a.m. today, Election Inspector Robert Naumann described a “very busy day” inside the Bermuda Room at Richmond Memorial Auditorium. At that point, more than 125 people had voted by machine and another 75 by provisional ballots.
“You know, it’s only 11: 45 a.m. and this is the beginning,” Naumann said. “We are ready for anything that comes our way. I just want to make sure everybody votes today.”
The same traffic was reported by the inspector of the Richmond Senior Citizen Center at 25th Street and Macdonald Avenue. The inspector there, who wished not to be named, described primaries as more difficult to manage due to the different ballots and “cross-over party people.” The cross-overs, she explained, are people who leave their former political party to join a new one at the polling place.
Shortly thereafter, we went over to the Veterans Memorial Hall at 23rd and Lincoln and noticed a packed parking lot for the atypical weekday. Election Inspector Sederia A. Wesson, who has worked a total of 10 elections out the Veterans Hall, expected to see over 1,000 voters throughout the day. That would mean a large afternoon-to-evening influx of voters, as by noon only about 121 people had come to vote at the machines.
“When the kids get out of school watch out,” Wesson said. “The parents will pick up their kids and make a straight beeline over to here so they can vote.”
After the polls close, all attention will focus on the results. You’ll be able to track them by clicking on the Contra Costa County Elections Office website here.