At 7 a.m. Tuesday, the polls at Lemon Township opened to the public, just like all other precincts in Wyoming County.
But about an hour beforehand. Judge of Elections Phyllis Leslie and the rest of the polling staff in Lemon Township were busy in the municipal building, setting up and getting ready for people to cast their ballots.
Leslie, a Republican, has been Lemon Township’s Judge of Elections for more than 20 years.
“I started out as a clerk back in 1981 or 1982 for the Elections Board,” Leslie explained. “I eventually decided to run for judge and have been one ever since I was first elected.”
Leslie could not recall the exact year she started as a Judge of Elections, but is certain she has served the longest of all the judges now serving in Wyoming County.
As a Judge of Elections, Leslie explained, she helps voters who have questions or problems when they cast their ballots.
“Sometimes we can’t find people’s names in the registration book,” she said. “So I call the county election office, to see if they’re recorded there.”
Sometimes people move out of the area and are unaware that they have to go to another precinct. They’re provided with the information about the precinct where they can now cast their vote.
“People sometimes have a problem with their ballots. I help them and also tell them what they need to do,” she said.
Assisting Leslie is the majority and minority inspector of elections.
“The majority inspector has voters sign the book. The minority inspector helps me get the machines ready.
Even though Wyoming County has used an electronic system to record votes for about 15 years, there are still older folks who have a bit of trouble because they prefer paper ballots.
But Leslie prefers the electronic method of counting votes, because of the speed and convenience.
“When I was a clerk in the 1980s, we used paper ballots that we had to count by hand, before bringing them to the courthouse. We’d be there from 8 p.m. when the polls closed, to about 2 a.m. the next morning.”
Eventually, Wyoming County switched to a paper ballot system which were counted by a machine at the county courthouse. This made the job of those working at the polls much easier, because they were finished much sooner, Leslie explained. The latest change is the system now in place, in which all votes are digitally recorded and processed.
“When we went to digital, a number of people voiced their concerns,” Leslie explained. “They want their votes recorded on paper, so they have a permanent record.”
Leslie actually prefers the method in which the paper ballots were counted at the courthouse. Still, the incorporation of the county’s latest voting system went well, she said.
She does like being able to drop off the information at the courthouse around 9 p.m.
“Counting all those ballots late at night was tedious and made you blurry-eyed,” she said.
Although Leslie and the other election officers are paid a stipend for their services, it isn’t much.
“We do it as a public service,” Leslie explained. “And it gives us a chance to see all of our neighbors when they come in to vote.”
One thing Leslie cannot understand is the recent controversy over voters being required to show identification before being allowed to cast their ballots.
“We’ve always wanted to see your ID. I don’t know why people are so against it.”
Every primary and general election, Leslie and the rest of Lemon Township’s election staff watch over the polls from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“We always stay there all day, because we’re not allowed to leave until the polls close. We bring something for lunch and dinner,” she said.