Join Club

Longtime Poll Volunteer Passing Baton to New Generation After Record-Breaking Election

From record early voting turnout to the volume of volunteer requests to the number of first-time voters, the word “first” characterizes many aspects of the 2020 election in Arlington.

But for 83-year-old poll volunteer Bill Thatcher, 2020 is his last year helping people exercise their “supreme privilege of voting.”

For the past 45 years, the Arlington resident has volunteered as a precinct chief at the polls, moving wherever he is needed. This year, he is an assistant chief of early voting at the Langston-Brown Community Center along Lee Highway.

What started a half-century ago as a minor way to give back to the community has become a mission to safeguard a right people have sacrificed everything to secure. Thatcher’s goal is to clear any impediments blocking people from voting and make everyone who walks into his precinct feel comfortable.

“I reflected just last evening, there are people who have shed blood and died for this freedom to vote, to keep freedom free,” he said.

After the election, Thatcher will have more time to focus on his day job as a real-estate broker, which he has had for 50 years. He just renewed his license, and plans to work so long as he is in good health.

2020 is a memorable election year to end on, with more than 50% of active voters having already cast early ballots. It thrills Thatcher, who lives in a neighborhood near the East Falls Church Metro station, to process the votes of many first-timers, several of whom are seniors.

Although lines can stretch up to two blocks, they move at a brisk pace, he said. He thinks the use of early voting to keep the Election Day crowd size down should stay when the pandemic fades because people seem to enjoy early voting. One pandemic precaution — curbside ballot pickup — did not prove popular, however. People want to see their ballots processed, he said.

“A few ask for receipts,” he said.

And it breaks his heart whenever someone has to be turned away. One year, a friend arrived at Thatcher’s precinct about 30 seconds after 7 p.m. and the polls had closed. By law, he could not let his friend in.

“It grieved me,” he said. “He made every attempt to come, he wanted to vote, he was ready, willing and able, registered and everything, but just because of time constraints, was not able to vote.”

Empathy is an important trait for future poll workers, says Thatcher.

“Make sure that you give them the assurance that their vote is important and deserves to be counted,” he said.

He started working at the polls in 1975, on the suggestion of his neighbor and distant relative, who had decided to step back from volunteering. Similar to his relative, Thatcher desires to pass his spot on.

“I just feel I’ve done it for this length of time and I should let someone else enter in now and do some volunteer work,” he said.

If this year is any indication, there are many who are eager to take up the baton. Thatcher said more than 2,000 people responded to this year’s call for poll volunteers.

“It’s fantastic we’ve had a huge influx in new workers this election who are stepping up to cover for those who cannot work due to health risks,” said Eric Olsen, Arlington’s Deputy Director of Elections, in an email.

Olsen said he hopes some of the new volunteers will stay on and have a rewarding experience working the polls for years to come, in the way that Thatcher has.

“People like Bill are the lifeblood of making elections function properly,” Olsen said. “They happen with preparation, trust, and most importantly — people.”

Recent Stories

In loving memory of Joseph Robert Kapacziewski, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 41.

In loving memory of James Stuart Edmonds, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 84.

A man was shot in front of a lounge on Columbia Pike early this morning, continuing a string of violent incidents.

Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 17124 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…

YULA’s ultimate frisbee spring season is now open for registration. We offer programs for middle and high schoolers – open to all players, whether they are new or have previous experience.Middle SchoolIn the Middle School league, mixed-gender teams practice once during the week and have games on Sunday afternoons. Spring league is a fun, safe, and positive environment. The season begins mid-March and wraps up with a tournament in early June. There are several options for practice days, so we can often work around schedule conflicts with other sports & activities.High SchoolThe High School program is organized by school of attendance and teams are classified by gender. New players will learn the basics in a supportive, welcoming environment. Experienced players will continue to develop their skills, and enjoy competition with other high school programs. The season concludes with a state level championship tournament in late May.All players are guided by experienced coaches who emphasize sportsmanship and good spirit. Ultimate is a fun sport with great camaraderie!YULA does not want finances to limit anyone from participating. Our middle school program offers a “Pay What You Can” cost structure and our our high school program is offering a $50 discount to new players.Visit our website to register and learn more. Sign up with a friend, but don’t delay, the season starts in March!http://www.yula-ulti.org

Submit your own Announcement here.

The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.

The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.

Former participants have this to say:

_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Valentine Pop-Up at George Mason University

Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village

Standup Comedy Showcase Starring Matt Ruby (Comedy Central)

Dead Horse Comedy Productions brings together top comedians from the DMV and beyond for a live standup comedy show!

Matt Ruby, Headliner

Matt Ruby is a comedian, writer, and filmmaker from New York City. His comedy has been filmed by

×

Subscribe to our mailing list