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Democracy in action

Local volunteers lay groundwork for November election

Created date

May 22nd, 2012

The November election may still be a few months away, but Jean Foster is already busy rounding up Oak Crest friends and neighbors to volunteer at the polls on Election Day. I post flyers and sign-up sheets on the bulletin boards throughout the community, advertise in Oak Crest s community newspaper, and I make appearances on our in-house television station, says Jean, an election judge at Oak Crest s Crestview Station precinct. Oak Crest, along with its sister Erickson Living community, Charlestown, in Catonsville, has its own voting precinct and relies heavily on volunteers to keep things running smoothly. Volunteers play a big part in the success of our precinct, says Jean. Their duties are mainly to greet and guide voters to the various stations and, when necessary, assist voters with special needs.

The American way

A former campaign volunteer, Jean had never served in an official capacity on Election Day until she moved to Oak Crest where, along with her husband Tom, she served as chief judge at the community s first election in 1998. I love volunteering, says Jean. As Americans, we are privileged, and it is important that everyone gets a chance to be heard and vote in their own way. As an election judge, Jean participates in a mandatory training session by the county Board of Elections. She, in turn, conducts a training class for volunteers, all of whom live at Oak Crest. Oak Crest resident Geraldine Cassell volunteers. A retired Anne Arundel County teacher, Geraldine has volunteered nearly 1,500 hours in various capacities at Oak Crest, including elections, since moving to the community seven years ago. The first thing I did after I moved was sign up to help with the elections, says Geraldine, who greeted voters and handed out stickers at the primary in April. Geraldine has tried to instill the importance of voting in her college-age grandkids. I tell them, It s your God-given right to vote, says Geraldine. And if everyone just sat back and thought, Oh how is my one vote going to make a difference, there wouldn t be an election. Every vote really does count.

Civic duty

Community member Bill Witty has assisted voters at the Oak Crest precinct for the last few elections. The primary always has a light turnout; it s nothing like the general election in November that s always busy, says Bill who moved to Oak Crest in 2004. Like Geraldine, Bill takes voting seriously. It s one of the rights we re given as Americans, and I think it s important to exercise those rights. I feel as if it is our civic duty to vote. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the majority of retirement-age citizens agree. The 65-plus age group had the highest voting rates in the 2008 election with 70%. That same demographic had 61% the best turnout of any age group for the November 2010 mid-term election. Voter turnout at Oak Crest in particular is typically above the state average because of convenience for the 2,100 residents. Our highest turnout here was in 2004 with 80%, says Jean. Through the years, Jean has witnessed changes in the process from paper ballots to the current touch-screen voting units and electronic poll books with a modem. Obviously, we will work tirelessly to make any of the systems work for voters, but the touch-screen voting units have advantages, says Jean. Voters can correct mistakes or change their minds easier, and the reporting process is much more efficient. As for her prediction on the outcome in November, she says it will depend upon whether people will vote as blocks or think independently. How the Independents vote is critical, she says. No matter whether the winner is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, Jean knows one thing for certain: Seniors really do care about all of the issues because we have children and grandchildren, says Jean. Their futures are important, and that makes the hard work and preparation worthwhile.