'06 Poll crawl

Normal college students get excited about pub crawls, but Missourian reporters Katie Molloy and Casey Parks entertained themselves by going on a poll crawl to see what was up at the polls on Election Day. Here’s what they found.
Wednesday, April 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:29 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

For Lillian Morris, working the polls isn’t just a way to earn a little cash or help out her community. It’s also a chance to spend a very long day with fellow pollworker Bill Malone.

At the Woodcrest Chapel, Malone, an Army retiree and former MU ROTC instructor, kept other pollworkers in a tizzy with his quirky riddles and stories. Clad in a very patriotic outfit — a white and blue striped shirt complemented by a red American flag tie — Malone leaned over the polling table, flashed his dimples and in a Tennessee drawl shared one of his brainteasers:

Pretend you’re in the middle of a block of cement. There’s six feet of cement on either side of you, and you’re trapped in the middle with a rusty old saw and a table. How do you get out?

The other pollworkers, all women, giggled. They had heard this story before.

The answer, you ask? Cut the table in half, when you put two halves together you get a “(w)hole.”

Between jokes, Malone fielded questions from voters. “Why do we only get to vote for two things?” a confused voter asked.

* * *

But the mood was definitely light in Columbia’s voting sites. From one poll to the next, voters discussed things like where their grandchildren lived and their own health.

About 10 minutes away, the all-female group of pollworkers at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, gabbed around a table dotted with crossword puzzles, People magazine and plastic containers left over from lunch.

“You get four women together, and we’re bound to find something to talk about,” said Mary Toolson, a pollworker for 10 years.

And it’s a good thing the talks stayed interesting. Chatting about the movie adaptation of “Memoirs of a Geisha,” one pollworker tried to forget the hip that ached after sitting all day. She adjusted her ice pack and kept grinning as a steady stream of voters poured into the lobby.

“You have to keep your wits about you; tell jokes,” said Marjorie Bay, a former teacher. Working at the smallest precinct in town, Bay and the other workers at First Church of Christ Scientist saw fewer voters. Bay admitted that right before lunch she got a little tired.

For Bay, one of the most rewarding parts of the day came early on. Before 9 a.m., children accompanied their parents to the poll, eager to snatch a coveted “I Voted” sticker to wear to school. Hours later, Bay was still smiling knowing that the children displayed patriotism throughout school.

Though the high point came early, seeing her neighbors and church friends kept Bay alert. They love seeing her, too. One enthusiastic voter peered over at Bay, grinning, and said, “You have such a pretty face. I just love seeing a pretty face.”

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