HALL: Behind the curtain: Meet the poll workers & their new mechanical friend ahead of the election

Laura Hall, Under the Radar
Left to right, Don Rogers, Henry Gross, Ron Johnston of Precinct 49

To be eligible for voting, one must be registered 29 days before Election Day. Paul Lux, Supervisor of Elections for Okaloosa County, has unveiled a new look for our voting pleasure. No more waiting in sign-up lines of A, B, Cs. Instead, a quick swipe with your driver’s license will move you on quickly to the voting booth. Never fear if you don’t own a driver’s license as other cards can be manually entered.

I attend a training session for our volunteer poll workers from precinct 49/50 which covers the heart of Destin. I wanted to have my first look at the new EViD (Electronic Voter IDentification). This machine, which is long overdue to drag us kicking and screaming into the modern age, has been used for early voting for a few years, but this will mark the first time it is deployed on Election Day. This new equipment takes the place of six to nine poll workers and will speed up the sign-in process.

I talk with Don Rogers who is the “head honcho” or No. 1 clerk in the 49th precinct. He has been working elections since 2002 and is the “go to man” for all problems at the polls that others can’t solve. He is ably assisted by Ron Johnston, assistant clerk. Don says, “We don’t turn anyone away from the voting privilege, and we attempt to make every voter’s experience a positive one.”

Jane Linihan, poll worker coordinator, calls the meeting to order. The five Destin precincts involved in the May 14 special election are represented by 25 experienced poll workers. All are here to receive three hours of intensive training required by Florida law prior to each election they work. The new EViD will feel like an old friend by the time the session is complete.

Don tells me, “An immense amount of work has gone into this. A staff of election officials started as far back as March 4, preparing the training procedures on the new electronic gear. At least 100 hours have been spent up to this time to make the transaction as flawless as possible for the voter.”

One of the problems in the past occurred when someone arrived to vote but was in the wrong precinct. With the hard-working EViD in place, this problem is quickly solved. The EViD will look at the scanned driver’s license, note immediately that you are in the wrong location then print out directions to your proper voting place. The EViD will be quick, fast — and hopefully flawless. You will receive this information with a smile, from the poll worker, not the EViD.

On Election Day, the poll workers you will encounter have set their alarm clocks to go off at times ranging from four thirty to five o’clock. This enables them to arrive at the polling place no later than 6 a.m., set up all the equipment along with the voting booths, give a Pledge of Allegiance and open the doors to you, the voter, by 7 a.m. They will remain at this job until the polls close at 7 p.m.

Other precincts involved are 35/44 and 20. This is such an important privilege for all of us; please take the time to voice your opinion at the polls on May 14. The EViDs will be patiently waiting for you.

Laura Hall is a longtime gardener and Destin resident. She explores area gardens and other local topics with her cavalier spaniel Annie. If you would like to show off your garden or be profiled in a future column, contact Laura at