FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A woman who began as a precinct election officer during the Eisenhower administration was among hundreds of veteran poll workers honored Wednesday at the State Capitol.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was joined by four of her predecessors in office: Kenneth Harper (1971-72), John Y. Brown III (1996-2004), Trey Grayson (2004-2011) and Elaine Walker (2011-2012), as well as Laura Babbage representing her husband Bob (1992-96), who was unable to attend.
Everyone who served at least 10 years received a pin, with those who have worked elections for 25 years or more were “pinned” by one of the former secretaries of state.
Grimes, the first Secretary of State to conduct such an event, called them “an amazing group of individuals, without whom this democracy and thing we call free and fair elections, would not exist.”
“They really are for the people they serve and that’s why it’s high time we give recognition to each and every one of them, who have been on the forefront of protecting our fair elections,” Harper said.
Brown told them they epitomize civic duty. “You don’t have to get a pep talk, you just do it. In fact, you go above and beyond and find ways to volunteer for perhaps our most important civic duty.”
“It’s kind of amazing that in the history of this country we’ve been running these elections,” Grayson said. “Outside of some other states, they work pretty well. And in this state, it’s a tribute to all of you.”
Walker noted elections in Kentucky are sound. “And the reason we can say that is due in large part to the integrity of all of you in this room and the others across this state. We stand on your shoulders, and we thank you for your dedication and commitment.”
The longest-serving precinct worker honored was Elizabeth Neal of Powell County, who began her career at the polls in 1954 and was accompanied by her daughter Nina Everman, who has been an election officer for 48 years. The second-longest on had was Betty Duvall of Edmonson County, a 58-year veteran.
Grimes says it takes 15,000 local precinct officials across Kentucky to conduct each election, and they have a difficult time getting enough to serve. With that in mind, Grimes will be proposing two election-related bills.
One would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote for when they turn 18, while the other would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve as precinct officers on election day.
Grimes spokesman Bradford Queen says the legislation has not yet been filed for the 2019 General Assembly.