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Poll workers vital to voting process

Pictured, from left, Teresa McFadden, Lynne Ray, Sarah Fain, Gloria Mouton, Vicky Buchanan, Kathy Alford, Connie Brewer and Chris Knight. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

The Erwin Record has been recognizing local heroes and one group the newspaper would like to recognize is the Unicoi County Election Commission poll workers.

The Unicoi County Election Commission poll workers were nominated by Unicoi County Election Commission Chairman Thomas Reeves and Unicoi County Election Administrator Sarah Fain for their hard work and dedication in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Unicoi County Election Commission poll worker Connie Brewer, who has served for more than 40 years, this year is full of firsts.

“The Unicoi County Election Commission has gone beyond to accommodate the voters during this pandemic,” Brewer said. “Besides the pandemic, which is a first for us, we are seeing a lot of first-time voters this year. One vote truly can make a difference and all citizens that can vote should be involved in the voting process and let their voice be heard.”

According to Brewer, the motivation to get up every morning to serve the community comes from her civic pride.

“I enjoy working with the public and it is my civic duty to serve the citizens of Unicoi County,” Brewer said. “I appreciate all that came out to vote and their patience during the voting process. I also appreciate all of the poll workers who put in the time to make the election successful. I am also thankful for the Unicoi County Election Commission, who continuously work for the success of our election.”

For poll worker Gloria Mouton, who has served Unicoi County for more than 10 years, the opportunity to serve during this election cycle has been compelling.

“It’s been exciting based on the numbers of voters,” Mouton said. “Never in the past 10 years have we seen early voting numbers like these. This truly demonstrates what is possible if all registered voters take the time to vote.”

For Mouton, it is vital that everyone vote.

“Our country is a democracy and in order to remain a democracy, voting is a major action to verbalize how our government operates and supports its citizens,” Mouton said. “I am so thankful for Sarah Fain and Teresa McFadden; both create an environment that is voter supportive and equally supportive to our team.”

Lynne Ray, who has been a poll worker for eight years, verified that this election cycle has kept everyone busy.

“We are seeing a lot of registrations, first time voters and voters who have not voted in years show up at the polls,” Ray said. “Since I was born and raised a Unicoi Countian, I enjoy seeing all of the people that I would not ordinarily cross paths with.”

According to poll worker Chris Knight, the right to vote is a “privilege.”

“It is a privilege to vote and I can’t imagine anyone that doesn’t care enough to vote,” Knight said. “I live by the motto I always heard, ‘if you do not vote, you don’t get to complain’.”

Kathy Effler Alford, who has served the county as a poll worker since her retirement from the Tennessee Department of Safety in 2014, views it an honor to be a part of the voting process.

“The entire process is super easy and fast,” Effler Alford said. “As an early voting deputy, I see firsthand all that goes into making the voting process smooth and safe. Our poll workers are friendly, courteous and helpful and I consider it an honor and a privilege to be a part of the voting process.”

For Vicky Buchanan, serving the community as a poll worker is a way to honor those that have given the ultimate sacrifice.

“I do what I do in honor of my daddy, Willie Jones, who was a WWII Veteran,” Buchanan said. “He returned with an injury and continued to work and raise our family of seven. I do this for him and for those that fought and sacrifice so much for my freedom.”