A lot has changed since Dodie Hanby started working at the polls.
Gone are the days of newspaper-sized ballots and performing counts that stretched into the early hours of the morning. In its place are weeks of preparing ballots prior to the election for scanning so they can be instantly counted by a push of the button on a computer shortly after polls close.
Through the decades of changes, Hanby has been a constant fixture during election time.
Hanby was recently recognized for 45 years as an election worker. She received a certificate from the Washington Secretary of State’s office and she received a pendant containing an early “voted” sticker.
She started as an election worker under then county Auditor Joe Libbey. Her first post was manning the polling location at the Greenbank Progressive Club.
“We started with huge paper ballots that looked like a newspaper,” Hanby said. Back then, people from each party helped with the reading and counting of the ballots. She also worked over the years at the elections office in Coupeville along with polling places, back when there were polling places, at Trinity Lutheran Church, the Clinton Senior Center, the Oak Harbor School District administrative office and Clover Valley Elementary.
Over the years she has seen the process change from the ballots that were filled out by pencil, to the venerable and sometimes controversial punchcards to the current mail-in ballots that have been used during every election in recent years.
Back then, the count would begin in the afternoon behind locked doors, but results wouldn’t be posted until after the polls closed. Blackboards lined the courthouse hallways and election workers would post results throughout the night. These days the count is posted on the website minutes after polls close.
She noted how the job has changed over the decades. When the polling places were open, she would have to show up before the polls opened at 7 a.m. and had to work past 8 p.m. for closing time.
“It was a 14-hour day,” Hanby said.
Now the polling places are gone. Most voters cast their ballot by mail or drop them off at one of four places throughout the county.
She is busy this week working alongside other elections staff processing the ballots coming in for levy elections in both the Oak Harbor and South Whidbey school districts. Those measures, if approved, will raise millions of dollars for both school districts. She spent Thursday using yarn to tie ballots together to help keep them organized. Her experience has been useful for staff too.
“She does not hesitate to share her knowledge and experience with others. She’s a great asset for us,” Island County Auditor Sheilah Crider said. She added that Hanby’s sense of civility shows in the kindness and pleasant nature she shows with coworkers and with voters.
When longtime election worker Loann Gulick came out of retirement to help with the November general election, Crider said the auditor’s office benefited from 80 years of experience between the two.
Hanby has been living on Whidbey Island for 60 years. She and her husband, Ray, lived in Coupeville for one year before moving to Greenbank. The couple moved to Whidbey Island when Ray took a job at the Navy base.
She hopes to continue working for the auditors office during election times with her co-workers.
“It’s a good group. We work well together,” Hanby said.
She doesn’t have any plans to retire soon.
“I’m going to keep doing this for as long as they let me,” she said with a laugh.