After 35 years of exercising my right to vote, I supported voting this year by serving as an election worker. Growing up, my parents demonstrated to me the importance of voting. They even tried to make it attractive to my brother and me by picking up a box of donuts to share with us after they cast their vote. While we were not told how to vote, my parents often joked about canceling each other’s vote. Despite their humor, I always knew that voting was a privilege not to be taken for granted.

Barriers to voting were not on my radar prior to joining the staff of Community Renewal Society in 2020. I now understand better the barriers that exist for individuals who have a criminal record, experience unstable housing, speak a language other than English, have a physical or mental disability, or live in an area where physical access to voting is restricted through redistricting and limited or inaccessible polling locations.

As an election worker, I received in-person and online training and support from my fellow workers. The atmosphere at Forest Park Middle School (FPMS) encouraged me. Seeing “Future Voters” come in with their parents gave me hope for the future. While consistently busy, the wait for voters at the three precincts hosted by FPMS was generally less than 10 minutes.

More election workers are needed. Ideal staffing would have four workers per precinct. One of the three precincts at FPMS had only one worker. Had we not helped each other, that precinct would not have been able to open. We surmised that the pandemic was still affecting the number of people, especially senior citizens, willing to serve.

Now is the time for young adults and others to help fill this void. At the end of the day, you will be glad you were part of protecting the right to vote.

Catherine Hegarty
Forest Park resident
Development & Communications manager
Community Renewal Society

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