Do you like meeting and talking to people? Do you want to serve your community? Can you work what could be a 16-hour day?
Being a pollworker could be just the job for you, even if all those criteria don’t exactly fit you.
“Everybody ought to do it,” said frequent pollworker Tammy Taylor of McComb. “It’s really worth it, and it’s a civic duty. It ought to be like jury duty.”
While still a temporary job — with a normal day’s pay of a little more than $100 augmented by hazard pay during the COVID-19 pandemic — those who take it on do seem to feel mostly that they are providing a service for the community.
“It needs to be done, regardless of who does it,” said Tom Dickinson of McComb, who has worked the polls for a couple of years now. “It’s an important job. ... It’s something I wanted to do, to be of service. I’m retired, so I have plenty of time, and if I can be of service, I’m happy to do it.”
Lillie Kollie of McComb is also retired with time to spare for duties and causes. She moved back home to McComb about 26 years ago after living and working elsewhere about 30 years.
She said she accompanied a friend to a pollworker training, saw what it would be like and has now been a pollworker for about 20 years.
“I enjoy it a lot,” Kollie said. “It’s a way I can help in the community, and I love community service.”
Kollie has always served as a precinct manager, she said, going to pick up polling place supplies the afternoon before Election Day, getting to the precinct early to direct the set-up of tables and voting machines, working through the 12-hour schedule and then shutting down and clearing the precinct before taking the voting machines and supplies back to Election Central in Magnolia.
She typically serves at Precinct No. 7, formerly at the Alpha Center but now at St. Mary Free Will Baptist Church.
She usually gives voters the cards needed to access the proper ballot on the voting machines, and helps voters with how to use the cards or operate the voting machines if they need it.
“I’m really like a fixture in there,” she said. “I stand there like Mama Bear to help if needed.”
Dickinson said he has been a non-manager pollworker so far, usually working at Precinct No. 19, Pisgah United Methodist Church.
Like Kollie, he often is the main worker who helps voters with questions about using the access card or operating the voting machine.
“It’s important to get things right, so the voters can vote how they want to vote,” Dickinson said.
Dickinson and Kollie both said the COVID-19 pandemic had caused them to think twice about whether they should serve as pollworkers this year.
“It gave me pause,” Dickinson said. “I’m part of the most vulnerable group due to my age and some underlying conditions. I talked to the commissioners, and they said they would be taking extraordinary precautions to protect us and the voters.
“They’re going to be following all the guidelines, and I feel confident it will be safe. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be working this year.”
Kollie said plastic glass shields, masks and gloves would be issued to all workers to help protect them, which gave her confidence in the ability to work safely this year.
“We just have to be aware and conscious of what we’re supposed to do, and use common sense,” Kollie said.
Kollie and Taylor said they also feel they should promote voting. “I encourage everybody to vote. I tell all my friends and neighbors to get out and vote,” Taylor said. “If we could get everybody we know to encourage everybody they know to vote, we could be at 100% turnout.”
Kollie, as a Black woman, looks back at Mississippi’s history and the civil rights movement as an inspiration to vote.
“People ask me whether I think their vote counts, and I tell them yes, they should vote. Their vote counts,” she said. “In this state, people fought for the right to vote, and they need to use it. Please vote.”
Dickerson and Kollie agreed they will likely continue to serve as pollworkers as long as they are able, for personal and civic reasons.
“I enjoy talking to people. Most of the voters are outgoing; they’ll talk to the pollworkers,” Dickinson said. Pisgah “is a friendly place to work. All the workers are congenial. It’s a long but pleasant day. It’s a busier precinct with generally a high turnout, so the day goes fast.”
“I’ll keep going till I can’t,” Kollie said. “I understand the importance of using our voices by voting. The only way I wouldn’t (keep working) is if I felt my life was in danger, or if the election commission did not care for workers and the voters. As long as that’s done, I’ll continue.
“I love it, and I’m proud to contribute to that.”