ELECTION NOTEBOOK: Veteran worker has 'feel' for the elections

Marion County Clerk Valerie Dornberger, center, points out voter turnout numbers on a digital device to election officials Sue Wagner, left, and Tina Baxter Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at the Msgr. Farischon Hall polling place in Palmyra, Mo. Some Marion County voters began using the electronic "signature pads" -- a type of tablet computer -- to sign in to vote during Tuesday's election. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 3, 2018 9:15 pm Updated: Apr. 3, 2018 9:18 pm
Richard Motley

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Richard Motley had been through this rodeo before.

Motley, 82, began serving as an election official in Hannibal shortly after his retirement at age 65, so Tuesday's election -- and all that goes with it -- was like revisiting an old friend.

Motley helps oversee the first precinct in the second ward, where he lives. The Assembly of God Church on Missouri Avenue is polling headquarters.

It was a slow day for Motley and fellow workers Dale Swenson, Betty Swenson and Michelle Conrad. By late in the afternoon, only about 100 of the 1,100 registered voters in that area had cast ballots.

"A good day will probably be about 12 percent to 14 percent (of the eligible voters)," said Motley. a former administrator at the Hannibal Clinic.

Motley said the non-presidential election years are usually low-traffic turnouts at the polls. Presidential races, however, are a different story.

"Back in 2016 (for the Trump-Clinton presidential election), the people were lined up, waiting to get in," he said.

Betty Swenson remembered that day.

"We had more than a 50 percent turnout," she said.

Voting day is like a science for Motley. He has learned the habits of the voting public. Not only can he predict the percentage of a turnout fairly successfully, he knows what to expect -- and when to expect it.

"Normally, the busiest times (at the polls) are between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. when most people are getting off work," he said. "We have a lot of business people and white-collar workers in this precinct."

Motley worries that some of the newer voting requirements, such as having a picture ID, might deter some from voting.

"Some of the older citizens no longer have driver's licenses, which serves as the picture ID for many," said Motley, who grew up in Pike County, Ill.

After the election, Motley will be planning for vacation trips to Iceland, the Baltic region and Japan.

"I went bungee jumping in New Zealand last year," he said.

Signature pads prove popular

Election judges at the Farischon Hall polling place in Palmyra gave high marks to a couple of new voting wrinkles that went into effect with Tuesday's municipal elections.

Earlier this year Marion County Clerk Valerie Dornberger bought a series of new "signature pads" -- a type of tablet computer -- to help speed up the checking-in of voters at each polling place in the county.

These devices were programmed to hold the voter registration lists for each respective polling place. Upon arriving at the polling place, the voter could go to any check-in table and give his or her name, and the device would automatically determine in which precinct the person should vote. Then a printer attached to the pad would type out a receipt to let the judge at the ballot table know which ballot the voter should receive.

Loleta Gard, one of the election judges on duty Tuesday, said the system worked well at Farischon Hall -- where five precincts were housed at one location -- and it seemed to speed up the processing of voters as they checked in.

"I don't think we've had any problems," Gard said.

Election judge Judy Barnett confessed that she had to sign her name a second time when she went to vote because she missed hitting the pad properly the first time. "The younger ones don't have any problem with it," she said.

The new signature pads work in concert with Missouri's relatively new requirement that voters show a photo ID when arriving to vote.

Gard said this was the first time local voters had to show a driver's license, passport, military ID or some other form of acceptable identification before they could vote. She said people took the new requirement in stride without complaints.

Steady turnout at Farischon Hall

Voter turnout at the Farischon Hall polling place was "pretty steady" throughout the day, according to election judge Kaye Gottman. As of 6:32 p.m., 428 of the 3,096 registered voters at that poll had cast ballots.

Among them were Mark and Angella Reed of Palmyra. They said they weren't drawn to any particular issue or candidate for office but like to exercise their right to vote at every election.

"It's part of being a good citizen," Angella said. "It's part of our duty."

Mark agreed.

"We just make every election," he said. "No issue is too small."

Replacement machine

Marion County Clerk Valerie Dornberger had predicted that about 10 percent of those registered in the county would cast a ballot Tuesday. When a voting machine failed at Warren Baptist Church in the southwest portion of the county, Dornberger delivered a replacement machine.

"When I got there at 11 a.m., they'd only had eight voters. All the voters got to vote, and their ballots got put into an emergency bin until we got there with the machine," Dornberger said.

During a visit to Mount Olivet Church in Taylor, Dornberger said about a dozen ballots had been cast by 2 p.m. There are 474 voters registered in that township.

Few races, few voters

Knox County residents had only two countywide items to decide unless they live within cities that had election races.

A road and bridge tax of 35 cents per $100 assessed property tax valuation was up for renewal. A three-way race for two school board seats also was on the ballot.

That made for slow voter turnout in Knox City, where 24 people had cast ballots by noon.

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