WILLIAMSON – Vivian Livingood, Mayor of Gilbert, approached the Mingo County Commission at a regular meeting held Wednesday morning, with questions regarding poll workers in the upcoming May Primary Election.
Livingood approached the commission stating, “Thank you for the opportunity. I would like to start out just by saying that I have served as a Stafford District Committee woman for 20 years. It has been a lot years since I have done it but I definitely understand the process of choosing poll workers. I read many state codes and tried to keep myself abreast of the rules. I do know the fact that they are not ever truly confirmed until you guys vote. I know that and I have explained it to some of our workers. It is very clear to them now and I absolutely understand that there are two lists. Some people didn’t know that and one comes from the county executive committees democratic and republican workers and then the county selects the commission for each precinct. I think now people understand that there are two lists.”
Livingood continued, discussing the hard work and dedication involved with being a poll worker. “First of all, I would like to just tell you that these people work really hard that day. They really deserve more than $175 for that day. It is not that the amount of money is important to these people. It won’t make or break them in their livelihoods but they are dedicated. What this does bother to them is their integrity and their dedication for serving their county and their state. These two people (who were also in attendance at the meeting) have given 20 years of dedication and they are good and honest people. They aren’t on my side; they are on the side of fairness. They are not my poll workers. They worked for you for 20 years…I respect them for their willingness to work a long day and fair elections. I do not and have not said for one minute that any poll worker is a crook. Far from it, poll workers are to be commended for giving their time that day…Everyone should do it once. It is a long and tiring day…” Livingood explained.
Livingood continued, explaining that a major issue involved in the confusion concerned correspondence sent to them by the county and asked commissioners to explain the situation to the two people in the attendance at the meeting. “These people got their letters stating they were named as alternates instead of commissioners for the county. They thought I was still a committee woman and there are more than these two; they just didn’t show up today. They called me on the phone and asked me why I cut them as a worker. I explained to them that I have been out of this for a number of years and I don’t pick you… Today, I think it is best that you look at these two people who I consider very good, decent people and you explain to them that they got a letter that they were a commissioner and then they got a letter later that they are an alternate. Can you explain to them how that could happen?” Livingood questioned.
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith responded stating, “First of all, they don’t work for us, they work for the citizens of Mingo County as a poll worker. I have the utmost respect for the three individuals that you have talked for to the media and on social media. I have never questioned their integrity whatsoever. What you have in the Stafford District is a good problem…I’m sure you know, as a committee woman, that it is hard to find people to give their time for that amount of money on a very long day. In the Stafford District, we had more people willing to work than we had spots… What happened is that Mrs. Abbott sent out letters to people seeing who was interested in working…These individuals both received letters, filled out the forms and sent it back expressing interest in being appointed…It had nothing to do with their integrity…”
Smith continued, discussing how poll workers are appointed and that he understood that there has been some confusion in regards to the letters sent to potential poll workers. “In the future, we will make sure that the letter is very clear and says that no decisions will be made until a vote of the commission.”
One of the poll workers in attendance at the meeting spoke up stating, “I understand a little better now but I do take pride in working. I think it is a good civic duty. The money isn’t going to make or break me but I took pride in what I done and it was a blow but that is alright.”
Commissioner Diann Hannah spoke next stating, “The same thing happened to my mother a few years ago. She had worked elections probably for 25 years. Then she was removed and she still has personal feelings about that. “
Livingood spoke next stating, “Your letter does need tweaked…”
The discussion continued concerning letters sent to potential poll workers to determine how many were interested. Vivian Carter, one of the potential poll workers in attendance at the meeting stated, “In the future to prevent confusion could you put pending approval on the letter?”
Smith responded stating, “Absolutely. We can tweak that letter so there is not the confusion.”
The final issue involved a list of poll workers that Livingood had obtained from the Clerk’s office titled First List. On the first list, the three people that had received letters that they were to be alternates were listed as poll workers. On the second list that was approved, the three were listed as alternatites.
Tina Abbott, Administrative Assistant, provided an explanation stating, “I did give them to Mrs. (Judy) Harvey prior to them (the commission) giving any approval because she wanted to go through the list and see if everyone was registered to vote…”
“We know it was pending but they called and asked and they were told no you are not, you are on the list. It is very confusing,” Livingood explained.
“No one is angry about anything. We just wanted it explained,” one poll worker stated.
The discussion concluded with Livingood and commissioners discussing the need to get high school students involved in the election process.
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242 ext. 2279.)