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Poll Employees Find Reasons to Stay Engaged During Sporadic Voter Turnout

By Jason Herman, BDJ 364.01

Published on November 7, 2017

Bernadette Roberson (left) and Cathy Alston (right) find ways to enjoy their long day of work during a slow voter turnout. (c) 2017 Jason Herman

SYRACUSE. N.Y (Democracy in Action) – 15 and a half hours is a long day of work. Especially when work is slow. But for Voting System Specialists Cathy Alston, 45, and Bernadette Roberson, 54, work is still fun on this election day, despite the long periods of dead time at the polls.

“I love the architecture up here, I’ll probably walk around a little bit and enjoy the scenery and enjoy the day,” said Roberson, a Syracuse native.

Alston and Roberson are working the check-in table at Syracuse University’s Huntington Hall voting poll on this election day. The two are in charge of directing the voters to which table to go to to cast their vote based on the voter’s districts.

Alston, who has worked the polls for 4 years, and Roberson who is making her debut as a poll employee, both heard about the opportunity to work on election day from friends. In Alston’s years of working the polls, she has learned helping to facilitate the voting process means a whole lot more than just some extra money.

“I realized that a lot of people were complaining about the changes that needed to be made, yet no one was doing anything about it,” Alston said.

Roberson finds her motivation to sit at the polls from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. from the small talk she makes with voters.

“Everything here is so private. Nobody knows what anyone is feeling or thinking when they come in and it’s just a way to say hi people and give them a chance to do what they have the very well-earned right to do without any judgement or anything else,” Roberson said.

Roberson, a nurse, and Alston, a marriage therapist student, had not met each other until they walked into the poll room early Tuesday morning. But, because of the constant conversations the two have had while waiting for voters and the shared eagerness for facilitating citizens’ rights to vote, Roberson and Alston have developed a unique relationship.

“I enjoy doing it. I love meeting new people. I enjoy doing it,” Alston said.

“I would definitely do it again,” Roberson added. “I would definitely do it again.”