Deacons are clergy leaders who are called by God, authorized by the church and ordained by a bishop to a lifetime ministry of word, service, compassion and justice. Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship, nurture others in their relationship to God and lead church people to respond to the needs of the needy, neglected and marginalized of the world.General Board of Higher Education & Ministry
Janet Harman and J F Lacaria are two of our WV Conference deacons who felt called to serve as election workers for the general and primary elections in 2020 and 2022. The idea emanated from Janet’s concern about the election environment in 2020 with pervasive divisiveness, anger, and hatred throughout the country. She decided to call the Kanawha County Clerk’s Office and volunteer to work the election. She then sent a faithful challenge to other WV Conference Deacons to join her in this ministry. JF accepted the challenge, resulting in Janet serving in Charleston as an election commissioner and JF serving as a poll worker in Sissonville.
While any of us can serve as poll workers, these two responded to this need out of their calling as deacons. As Janet and JF explained, democracy is the closest form of government to our Christian values which uphold the sacred worth of all people. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people. … Our United Methodist Social Principles, 164.B, provide, that the form and the leaders of all governments should be determined by exercise of the right to vote guaranteed to all adult citizens and that the strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. Voting gives voice.
Working at the poll was deemed by Janet to be the strongest way to experience democracy in our polarizing environment. In their respective roles on election day, neither JF nor Janet cared who people voted for; poll workers are there to facilitate voting without taking a side. Democracy is preserved with a clean election. This is justice ministry – helping to ensure a fair and free election.
These two deacons affirmed the importance of living out their call. Through their service on election day, they worked for the common goal of helping people vote. JF acknowledged that you don’t have to spend all your time with like-minded people, and the poll is a place to serve everyone. He noted that the expression of relationship with others transcends our differences. Loving everyone does not mean always agreeing with them. You can rise above the political fray when you work at the polls. Janet recounted her joy in watching parents bring their children to vote for the first time, a sign that our democratic system of electing officials is perpetuated.
Both Janet and JF set aside their own personal political views as they served in their respective roles of ensuring the integrity of the election process. JF cited an incident of a gentleman who was struggling to use the voting machine and was ready to give up without casting his vote. JF assisted him despite knowing that his votes were for candidates JF did not support.
Although they had prepared for a hostile environment during their training, it did not happen at their polling sites. Janet noted that when she and the other election commissioner of a different party left the voting area to assist a person voting from her car, all activity stopped in the voting area until the two commissioners returned. This ensures representation by both parties in all aspects of voting. Neither Janet nor JF felt political bias by other workers and opined that the voting process in their respective polls was fair and efficient. Both will be working the polls again in 2024; not for the money, but as an answer to a call. Both Janet and JF donated the money that they earned for working at the polls to mission projects.
If you have a calling to work the polls during an election, contact your County Clerk a few months prior to an election or visit the West Virginia Secretary of State website: https://apps.sos.wv.gov/elections/PollWorkers/Register. Poll workers are paid for training as well as the time worked on election day.
To serve as a poll worker, you must
- Be registered to vote in your county. Check your registration, update your registration, or register to vote for the first time any time at GoVoteWV.com;
- Be able to read and write the English language;
- Attend training; and
- Be available to work all of Election Day.