Friday, November 5, 2010
The first time Marcile Hickman worked an election was 70 years ago. She was only 19, not even legally eligible to be an election judge, since back then the voting age was still 21. However, as Hickman recalls, no one else could be found, so when she was asked to do it, she stepped up to the task. Now, at 89, she still volunteers to work as an election judge for every election.
Hickman said she finds the job “enjoyable” and likes getting to visit with people when they come in to vote.
“I guess I’ve always been a people person, because I’ve always worked with the public,” Hickman said.
Hickman has lived in Callaway County all her life and works at Ozark Land souvenir shop in Kingdom City three days a week, though she calls herself retired these days. When she worked at the shop full-time, she said she couldn’t work at the polls. For the 27 years she worked at the shop, she had a break from her election duties. But from 1940-1960 and from 1988-2010, Hickman was at either the Jackson or Calwood precinct helping voters cast their ballots, covering a span of about 43 years.
Hickman said the voting process has changed a lot from the time she started working as an election judge to now. She said the public used to have to punch holes in their ballots and then her and the other officials would put the papers on a string.
“Republican tickets went on one string, and Democratic tickets went on another string,” she said.
When she first began helping out in the 1940s, Hickman said voters didn’t have to show an ID, and she didn’t think it was necessary back then.
“Most of the time, we knew everybody anyway,” she said.
People used to be able to vote a split ticket in the primary elections, too, she said.
However, Hickman said modern times have brought some good changes. She said the whole process is less work than it used to be, and it’s easier for the results to come out correctly.
Even though the electronic machine counts the votes, Hickman said the election judges still count the ballots by hand as well.
On election day, Hickman starts her duties at 5:45 a.m. and works until about 7:30, taking a brief break to vote herself when she has a chance. Though it’s a long day, Hickman doesn’t find it overwhelming.
“I don’t usually get too tired,” she said. “It’s enjoyable.”
Linda Love, Callaway County Clerk, said the election judges who choose to work elections usually are the older generation. The youngest judge who helped out in Tuesday’s election was 51. Love said the county has had college students help out in past years, but they “come and go.”
“They’re a lot more interested in the presidential elections,” Love said.
In Tuesday’s election, Hickman worked at the Calwood Community Center. She remembers the exact number of ballots cast—357. She announced that this number was within her speculation of “between 350 and 400” prior to election day. She said her fellow three election judges in the Calwood precinct joked that she ought to know, since she’d been doing this for so long.
She said this year’s election was quite memorable for her because, “I don’t think I’ve seen Callaway County go completely Republican before.”
Hickman said the turn out in Calwood was good.
“I think everybody should vote, because if they don’t vote, they have no reason to complain.”