Your Democracy Heroes

Meet Your Local Poll Workers

Election workers are integral to the election process. During early voting and on Election Day, they provide essential services such as setting up the voting equipment, checking in voters, processing ballots, assisting voters with special needs, and closing down and securing the voting site at the end of the day. Join us as we spotlight their efforts week-to-week, and meet a few of your local poll workers in North Carolina. They are our Democracy Heroes, who make sure your vote counts.

Election Worker Spotlights

Headshot of Marie Boags.

Marie Boags | Catawba County


Marie’s Favorite Part of Election Work

“Seeing people happy about the voting process and relieved that they were able to vote.”

Importance of Serving Others

“It was heartwarming to see all the new voters and talk with people through their fears of registering to vote.”

Making a Difference in Your Community

“I would recommend it because it is internally rewarding knowing you’re helping people make a difference in their community.”

Posted: Oct. 15, 2021

Headshot of Janice Tolbert.

Janice Tolbert | Watauga County

Site Manager and Judge

Janice’s Favorite Part of the Job

“I love renewing friendships with our local elections office staff and getting to know my coworkers as well as meeting all the other workers in the county when we have our in-person training sessions.”

Why Others Should Serve

“We need good honest people to help with the voting process. Although it is a paid position, most of the workers enjoy the work and want to work year after year.”

On Election Security

“We learned how to keep our ballots, equipment, materials, and site secure. It was good to know that our local law enforcement departments were supporting us and were available if we needed them.”

Posted: Oct. 1, 2021

Headshot of Bobby Horner.

Bobby Horner | Person County

Election Worker

Bobby’s Call to Serve

“I had always wanted to do it but my work schedule always had me out of town during election time. My job was terminated in March 2020 due to COVID. I decided during the summer that I wanted to give it a try. Completed my application and was contacted by Person County Board of Elections.”

Stepping Up Where Needed

“I started the first week of September (2020) working on getting out absentee ballots. I did that all the way up until early voting started. Second, by working in the BOE office I worked on supply kits for each precinct and organized all those with the tabulators for pick up and delivery to each precinct. During the election, I did a little bit of all tasks. Started on the first day checking in voters. During the course of early voting and Election Day, I worked in all positions wherever I was needed.”

What Others Can Learn About the Elections Process

“When I was in school we had a civics class. This is not taught in school today. There is a lot of things going on each day that people don’t realize. It’s not just checking a person in to vote.”

Posted: Sept. 3, 2021

How to Be a Democracy Hero

During each election season, county boards of elections search for workers to staff polling places and voting sites. Visit Become an Election Official for more information.

Step Into the Spotlight

Are you an election worker who would like to be featured on this page? Contact your county board of elections for details on how to enter.

Previous Election Worker Spotlights

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Headshot of Hanna DeBord.

Hanna DeBord | Alleghany County

Election Worker and Greeter

Why Hanna Served

“My friend … helps to facilitate a small charity called Sweetpuddles that creates an artistic experience for underprivileged children. He asked many young people from across the state to volunteer as election workers and donate the proceeds to the charity in order to build as many art kits as possible.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“The most rewarding part of serving was getting to know the great people associated with the Alleghany Board of Elections and making a difference in the lives of young people.”

On Election Security

“I figured there were some security measures in place, but I am absolutely amazed at the measures taken to protect the accuracy and integrity of each vote.”

Posted: July 9, 2021

Headshot of Deborah Morrow-Ryan.

Deborah Morrow-Ryan | Brunswick County

Chief Judge

Why Deborah Chooses Election Work

“I really just enjoy working the elections, helping make sure people get their vote in. I enjoy the voters and my fellow workers.”

Approach to Leadership

“Since becoming Chief Judge, I’ve worked really hard to make sure the working experience is as pleasant as possible for the assistants.”

On Election Security

“There are so many controls in place when one physically comes in to vote. No one can be checked in twice yet provisionals allow for correction of check-in errors. We always have sufficient headcount to make sure no one can walk out with their ballot.”

Posted: Aug. 6, 2021

Headshot of Steve Norton.

Steve Norton | Carteret County

Election Assistant, Judge, and Chief Judge

Why Steve Serves

“In my mind, there is no freedom or right more important than the ability to cast a vote in elections. Working in the election process gives me the satisfaction of helping my community to cast their vote and protect this right. Also, working at the polls has given me the opportunity to educate those who may not have a complete understanding of the election processes, rules and regulations.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“To me, the most rewarding part of serving was in the November 2020 election. I was very happy and gratified by the fact that our elections team managed to process a record number of voters without any significant issues or problems. This was done in a manner that protected the safety of all voters and election workers.”

Why Others Should Work in Elections

“First, I would recommend becoming an election worker to learn more about your community. Secondly, it is a great way to meet neighbors and people that you have heard of, but, might never meet. Thirdly, it is a pleasure to meet and work with a wonderful group of other election workers. Everyone who works the election is dedicated to serving the community in a dignified and professional manner.”

Posted: June 25, 2021

Headshot of Chad Charles.

Chad Charles | Chatham County

Election Worker

Chad’s Reason for Being a Democracy Hero

“I wanted to be of service to my community as I was of service to my country, currently being a disabled veteran.”

Why Choose Election Work?

“Because of the fulfillment of knowing that we are part of the process that allows our democracy to have a voice.”

On Election Security

“What I learned about our election security is that it works. These security features are put in place to have a fair and safe election.”

Posted: July 23, 2021

Headshot of Gwen Beasely.

Gwen Beasley | Cumberland County

Chief Judge

Why Gwen Chooses Election Work

“I love helping people be able to exercise their right to vote and inform them of the voting process. The public has so many questions and concerns about voting but don’t know who to ask. Many people in the community know that I have done this work for many years and seek me out for information. It pleases me to answer questions and clarify mistruths about elections to my friends and the general community.”

Benefits of Serving in Elections

“It is rewarding and interesting to learn the ‘ins and outs’ of elections. To be a part of democracy in action, to share in the voting process and to be able to attest to the honesty and integrity of the local board of elections, poll workers and election process.”

On Securing Elections

“Elections security is vital and of the utmost importance to election officials. Every measure conceivable is put in place to ensure a fair and honest election.”

Posted: Aug. 20, 2021

Headshot of Roderick Back.

Roderick Back | Forsyth County

Site Lead/Chief Judge

Roderick’s Reason for Serving

“I feel it is crucial to our way of life to make the voting process available to everyone who is eligible.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“The most rewarding part of the process is the look of determination on the face of both the first-time voter and the octogenarian who has not missed voting in their adult life.”

On Safeguarding Elections

“I can honestly say that in North Carolina the security of every ballot is paramount to making sure every vote counts and there is no interference or manipulating of the system.”

Posted: April 14, 2021

Headshot of Andrew Sowers.

Andrew Sowers | Harnett County

Election Worker

Andrew’s Reason for Serving in 2020

“To give back to my community and help our elections run smoothly. I also knew this year would be a higher risk for the demographics that normally work elections, and as a young person, I would be able to help safely.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“I got to meet a lot of neighbors and people in the area, both election volunteers and voters. When I’m out shopping and running errands, I get to recognize them, and it’s made me feel like part of my community.”

On the Elections Process

“Any individual voter will interact with multiple people of different political affiliations, from check-in to getting and inserting their ballot, which makes you feel good and secure in the process.”

Posted: May 14, 2021

Headshot of Rodney Elmore.

Rodney Elmore | Hoke County

Chief Judge

Why Rodney Works in Elections

“To give back to the community and to ensure that everyone has a fair and equal chance to vote.”

On the Importance of Serving

“The most important part of serving is … to ensure that they have enough polling stations open where people can go and place their votes and to see the smiles on their faces.”

Why Others Should Serve

“I feel they will also get a better understanding and won’t so easily go by word of mouth and not have confidence in the system. The boards of elections have a lot of checks and balances in place to ensure we have a fair election.”

Posted: May 28, 2021

Headshot of Merldean Wilmore.

Merldean Wilmore | Johnston County

Early Voting Site Manager/Chief Judge

Merldean’s Reason for Serving

“I’m a people person, and I love serving others. It’s also rewarding to know that I had a small part in helping people to exercise their right to vote.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“It’s so rewarding seeing the smiles on so many people’s faces and hearing them say ‘I’ve done my part’ as they leave.”

On Safeguarding Elections

“It takes the whole team to be observant to ensure people are safe in the voting place. We must remain calm and friendly at all times.”

Posted: April 14, 2021

Headshot of Susan Garkalns.

Susan Garkalns | Randolph County

Supervisor, Judge, and Chief Judge

How Susan Got Started

“I retired in 2010 from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. This was the beginning of using computers in our county for elections. Many previous workers were not comfortable with this, so I was asked to work because I had knowledge working with computers and felt comfortable doing so.”

Why Serving is Rewarding

“I am especially pleased to see young voters come out, but even more so to see adults of all ages decide to vote for the first time. Making them feel welcomed and valued gives me great hope for the future.”

On Election Security

“I try to reassure people that we have one of the safest systems in the United States. Becoming an election worker would help individuals understand the checks and balances in place in our state. I also believe that it is very challenging but satisfying work.”

Posted: June 11, 2021

Headshot of Peggy Defenderfer.

Peggy Defenderfer | Wake County

Site Supervisor/Chief Judge

Peggy’s Reason for Serving

“Voting is a right and a privilege. I work to make sure every eligible voter has a chance to cast their ballot. Working allows me to give back to my community. I love being able to help people.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“Helping brand new American citizens register and vote. Many of them come straight from their swearing in ceremony to vote. They are so proud to show us their certificate!”

On Safeguarding Elections

“I have been amazed at how hard our board works to keep elections secure. During our superb training we are taught how to keep our sites secure.”

Posted: April 14, 2021

Headshot of Taz Kim.

Taz Kim | Watauga County

Assistant Election Official, Site Manager, and Chief Judge

Taz’s Reason for Serving

“(I) served in the United States Air Force for 20 years. Upon my retirement, I still felt compelled to serve.”

Favorite Part of the Job

“The most rewarding part is hearing a nervous first-time voter’s sigh of relief in successfully registering and casting their ballot.”

On Safeguarding Elections

“I am grateful my fellow election officials are observant and communicative about potential security threat(s). I am very appreciative of my fellow election officials whenever I provide site-specific security protocols.”

Posted: April 30, 2021