On Thursday night there was a great turnout at Central Middle School for a Poll Worker Appreciation event hosted by the Registrars of Voters.
The town has 200 dedicated poll workers and more than 40,000 voters.
This past November’s election was particularly memorable for poll workers due to the hand recount that was conducted for the 36th District State Senate race.
Guest of honor was newly elected Secretary of the State, Democrat Stephanie Thomas who succeeded Denise Merrill. With her was Deputy Secretary of the State, Jacqueline Kozin.
“In our office we like to joke that everyone thinks they know everything about elections because they vote,” Thomas joked to the poll workers. “Everyone is an armchair expert, but we know what you know, which is that it takes a lot of people and a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication to make sure our elections come off without a hitch.”
She said this past Tuesday a snow storm coincided with three special elections in the state and she was concerned about getting poll workers to their locations.
“In West Hartford, for example, they had to partner with the Dept of Public Works and have plows go pick up the poll workers to get them there on time,” Thomas said.
“The Secretary of the State is doing a big push soon to recruit poll workers, so if you have friends in other parts of the state, keep an eye out,” she added. “We’re trying to work with many different groups, from veterans to students to kids who participate in mock court. We’re all trying new ideas because if Early Voting gets implemented we’ll need more poll workers.”
Democratic Registrar Mary Hegarty read aloud a letter from US Senator Richard Blumenthal, who thanked poll workers. “In 2022 you all worked on a hand recount that attracted the attention of registrars from nearby towns who observed the process with the thought that how Greenwich conducted the recount could be replicated in their own communities.”
Our democracy relies on people making their voices heard at the ballot box and it would not be possible without you,” Blumenthal said.
Also in attendance was First Selectman Camillo shared a proclamation that the Thursday was Poll Worker Appreciation Day which noted that the poll workers continued to provide dedicated service during the challenges posed by the pandemic.
State Senator Ryan Fazio said he was particularly grateful to poll workers who worked tirelessly on the recount in his close race with Democrat Trevor Crow.
“It is no coincidence that this town consistently ranks among the highest turnout in municipalities across the country,” he said.
He delivered an official citation from the CT General Assembly from himself, State Rep Steve Meskers, State Rep Hector Arzeno and State Rep Rachel Khanna signed by the Senate Pro Tem Martin Looney and Secretary of the State Thomas showing appreciation for the Greenwich poll workers.
State Rep Meskers said his first exposure to the poll workers were at the old New Lebanon School where he was sitting in a lawn chair 73 feet from the door.
“The last couple of years the temperature have risen and all of you including our registrars are hallmarks of our democratic process,” he said. “And you know that it’s a country we all love. And the patriotism you bring to it, and the service you bring, each and every one of you, including the ones of you who didn’t vote for me, is so important.”
“You protect the democracy in a way only the military does,” he added.
State Rep Khanna (D-149), who is a member of the Government Administrations and Elections Committee in the legislature. “We’re looking at Early Voting and have come to realize how much work goes into elections. Elections matter. And it’s thanks to all of your service that we’re able to think about Early Voting and all the work that is going to take.”
State Rep Arzeno (D-151) said he’d become aware of the job of poll workers when he witnessed how early people arrived at 5:15am.
“At 5:15am I started seeing people coming into the school and I thought it’s a little too early. I approached a couple of people walking in in the middle of the night,” he recalled. “That day I finished my day by 8:30pm as you did. I was exhausted….I know the effort and what you do on election day.”
Selectwoman Lauren Rabin said she was grateful for poll workers for their hard work and training. She said her mother had been a poll worker and it was a “magical experience.”
Town Clerk Jackie Budkins said poll workers were valued and appreciated. She noted they work a 14-hour day on election day.
Republican Registrar gave a shout out to former Town Clerk Carm Budkins and knew so many poll workers from her 30 years serving as town clerk.
He also introduced Sharon and John Vecchiolla. Mrs. Vecchiolla is the former Democratic Registrar.
“On my very first day of my job Sharon came in to my office and said, ‘I just want to let you know I’m going to retire at the end of this term,'” DeCaro recalled.
“I said, ‘Sharon, give a little more time, you might like to stick around, and she did for eight years!”
After the remarks from elected officials and heavy hors d’oeuvres, the poll workers were treated to a screening of the recently released documentary about election workers called No Time To Fail. The documentary is a testament to the hard work of election workers during the 2020 election when the COVID-19 and other challenges added so much complexity to the job.