Poll workers in Fulton city go from counting votes to courting them

Dana Wicher with the ballot box used in Chattahoochee Hills’ elections. Wicher is the city clerk and is in charge of elections in the tiny Fulton city, which formed in 2007 and uses paper ballots. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com
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Dana Wicher with the ballot box used in Chattahoochee Hills’ elections. Wicher is the city clerk and is in charge of elections in the tiny Fulton city, which formed in 2007 and uses paper ballots. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

When qualifying was over for three city council races in Chattahoochee Hills, clerk Dana Wicher knew that she’d need some new volunteers for Election Day.

Six poll workers helped count ballots and direct residents to voting booths for the last city election in 2017. But four were no longer eligible for the task: three decided to run for office and one is the daughter of a candidate.

“I just thought, well, I might have to find some replacements,” said Wicher, the elections superintendent in the south Fulton County city of about 3,000 people.

Chattahoochee Hills voters still cast their ballots on paper, and poll workers help tally the votes as they are opened on Election Day. Early voting is already underway.

Anita McGinnis, one of the city council candidates in the Nov. 5 race, felt guilty about running because the decision meant both she and her daughter, Kerri Adkins, would be ineligible to count ballots.

“I felt bad,” McGinnis said. “It’s hard to get people to do it. It’s a very long day.”

Last time, the candidate-poll workers said, the job went from about 6:30 Tuesday morning until after 1 a.m. Wednesday. Wicher says she has found replacement volunteers.

This year, council candidate and former poll worker Renee Prince said, it will be a long day because she will be on the other side of the process.

“All you can do is start at 7 o’clock and just wait,” she said. “I’m scared. I’m humbled. I’m proud of myself for taking the leap of faith.”

Still, Price said she thinks the fact that three former poll workers are running for office says a lot about the city. All the candidates want to be part of change in the community, she said.

Ruby Foster said she chose to be a poll worker in 2015 and 2017, after losing her first bid for council in 2007 when the city was formed. She lost that race by six votes — 18-12.

“I wanted to see how the system worked,” she said.

Foster said she was surprised that half the cadre of poll workers from 2017 had decided to seek office themselves. She hoped all three would be able to serve on council.

“We have a relationship from working the polls,” Foster said. “I’ve been there with them before.”

McGinnis is facing off against Laurie Searle for the council District 3 seat, while Prince is one of four candidates seeking office in District 5. The others are Troy Bettis, Sarah Davis and Ross Williams. Foster is taking on an incumbent, Rick Stephens, for the District 1 seat.

All three former poll workers said they were running for office because the experience of serving as poll workers, going to city council meetings or being involved in their churches made them feel like there was more they could contribute to Chattahoochee Hills.

McGinnis said she knows what she and the other candidates will look like to the new crop of poll workers, counting the ballots across the council chambers where they hope to work.

“You see the faces when you’re counting the votes,” she said. “You see the excitement, you see the disappointment. You see the hurt in the loss, you see the celebration in the win.”

Even if she isn’t the victor, McGinnis said, she’s still excited for the process.

“Hopefully, I will have fingernails left when it’s done,” she said.

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