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November 4, 2019

Civic duty moves veteran Remington poll worker

Photo/Don Del Rosso
Veteran election official Susan Webster taught 35 years at Margaret M. Pierce Elementary School, which serves as the Remington Precinct polling place.
I do it because I care about what’s going on in the country and the local elections. I want to participate in the process.
— Remington Precinct Chief Susan Webster
Susan Webster
• Age: 71

• Home: Remington

• Election Day poll worker: Precinct chief, Remington polling place, 2013-present; assistant chief, Remington polling place, 2008-13; regular poll worker, Remington polling place, 2005-08.

• Education: Master’s degree, education, George Mason University, 1997; bachelor’s degree, early childhood education, Radford College, 1970; Thomas Edison High School, Alexandria, 1966.

• Family: Husband, Larry; 1 child from previous marriage; 2 grandchildren.

• Hobbies: Knitting; flower and vegetable gardening; crossword, jigsaw and Sudoku puzzles.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The long hours as a poll worker really never have bothered the Remington woman.

On Election Day for the last 14 years, Susan Webster has gotten up at 4 a.m. to arrive an hour later at the town’s polling place to help set up voting machines, open check-in stations, place signs and perform other related duties.

Depending on the offices up for grabs, the number of contests and turnout, she and the other paid poll workers sometimes didn’t get home until 8 p.m. or later, explained Mrs. Webster, the Remington precinct chief.

She considers the work a civic duty.

“I do it because I care about what’s going on in the country and the local elections,” said the retired M.M. Pierce Elementary School teacher. “I want to participate in the process. I want to give back. And that’s one way I can participate, other than voting.”

On Tuesday’s crowded ballot, Remington precinct voters will help elect a Lee District supervisor and school board member, commissioner of revenue, sheriff, treasurer and a state senator and delegate.

M.M. Pierce Elementary at 12074 James Madison St. serves as the Remington polling place for all elections, except municipal contests. Town Hall at 105 E. Main St. houses the polling place for mayoral and town council elections.

Polls across Fauquier will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Nov. 5. The Remington precinct has 3,120 registered voters and the county 51,002 voters.

As precinct chief, Mrs. Webster delivers ballots and supplies to the polling place, oversees a staff of six, assigns duties and coordinates work flow.

“There’s a lot to do,” said Mrs. Webster, who taught at Pierce from 1970 to 2005.

The veteran poll worker has witnessed a fair amount of change during her time at the Remington precinct.

Big Election Day changes relate to technology, including touch-screen voting machines and computer laptops and then iPads to more easily confirm residents’ voting status, Mrs. Webster noted.

With the recent elimination of the touch-screen option, all voters must use paper ballots — a move that Mrs. Webster supported.

“I think it’s really important to have a written record,” she said.

Her 15 years on the job largely have been trouble-free, according to Mrs. Webster.

Occasionally, voters mistakenly attempt to vote at the Remington poll.

Or, “you get people who come in and they haven’t voted in seven years,” Mrs. Webster said. “Well, their names are taken off the list and they can’t vote. They have to re-register. Things happen.”

But, she added: “I haven’t had anybody get angry or have to call the police or any of that stuff.”

To the contrary, voters seem grateful for poll workers’ efforts, Mrs. Webster said.

“People appreciate you. When I’m there, they say, ‘Thank you for doing this’.”

Hungry to involve more people in the process, Mrs. Webster turns compliments into recruitment opportunities.

“If they say ‘Thank you,’ I say, ‘Well, are you interested in doing it?’ They’re not. It’s giving up 14, 15 hours of the day.”

Poll chiefs, assistant chiefs and regular poll workers at Fauquier’s 20 precincts earn $200, $150 and $125, respectively, for a day’s work.

Their pay has remained unchanged since 2003, according to General Registrar Alex Ables.

“I think there should be an increase,” Mrs. Webster said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. Basically, it’s a volunteer position at that amount of money.”

Poll staff salaries might be bumped to $250 for chiefs, $225 for assistant chiefs and $150 for regular workers, she suggested.

On Election Day, Mrs. Webster also supervises four high school students who volunteer as precinct pages.

Among other things, pages help count ballots and hand out “I Voted” stickers, she said.

“They get to see what goes on — the back and forth of an election,” Mrs. Webster said. “It gets them involved in being willing to vote.

“It’s all about citizenship. It’s all about participating in the process and understanding it better.”

The work suits her for all sorts of reasons, she said.

“I think it’s really cool that parents are encouraging their kids to vote,” said Mrs. Webster, smiling. “We make a really big deal over the first time. We’ll yell, ‘First-time voter!’ and applaud and embarrass them.”

The job also allows her to catch up with old friends.

“One of the things I like best about the work is I get to see people in the surrounding area that I’ve known for years and years and years — the parents and my former students who come into vote,” Mrs. Webster said.

Born in Washington, D.C., she lived there until age 13 when her family moved to Alexandria.

The second of four children, she earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Radford College in 1970.

That year, she accepted a teaching job at Remington Elementary School — later renamed M.M. Pierce Elementary after a former principal. In her first year, she earned $6,800.

Mrs. Webster has no plans anytime to give up her Election Day job.

“The only way you can change things is to vote and participate.”

Remington Poll Assistant Chief Sharon Lee described Mrs. Webster as a skilled problem-solver.

“She cares about making sure the voters get taken care of properly and given every possible chance to vote,” Mrs. Lee said. “Sometimes you have to say no, which is not easy. Susan’s got the guts to say no when she’s explored every avenue and there’s no other avenue left.”

Mr. Ables called her a “trooper — a fixture around the Remington area.”

Deputy Registrar Diana Dutton added: “We’re glad to have her.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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ronjhon · November 9, 2019 at 1:53 pm
It is nice to hear about such a devoted poll worker. The nutrition for athletes can be found at Life of a fighter. Having such people in society is a great honour.
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