RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 20,000 people work at polling sites across the state, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections. The workers and countless volunteers help the polling sites run smoothly.
Ren Pridgeon now works for the Democratic Party at polling places but also served as an official poll worker in the past. He has almost five decades of experience.
“Not too many people do it for the whole 17 days, but I'm out here for 17 straight days and for 13 hours on Election Day. I'll be here all day,” Pridgeon said. “I've been doing it for 46 years. I thought I was going quit after 40 years, but they wouldn't let me.”
Pridgeon’s favorite location is the John Chavis Memorial Park Community Center, because he grew up across the street.
“People know me and people come looking for me,” Pridgeon said. “You see people, you know, you see people that know you as your classmates, teachers. I saw a couple of my old teachers. Can you believe it? Ninety years old coming up to the Chavis to vote.”
Pridgeon has seen things, including the environment at polling sites, change over the years.
“On Election Day, we will have extra security police officers riding through, sheriff deputies in place, because of the threats, voter suppression that's going on,” Pridgeon said.
But his enthusiasm about voting has stayed the same.
“When people come to me and complain about the elections, who won and why did they do this? Why did he do that? My first question is, did you vote? If they didn't vote, then the conversation is over. That's just how I am,” Pridgeon said.
From a gold medal to a letter from Barack Obama, he’s been recognized for his work over the years.
“It's not about the awards. I take pride in these, especially coming from the president of the United States, the first lady of the United States. Seriously? Of course you take pride in that. But I get just as much or even more pride when a voter comes down and says thank you for continuously being here. That means a lot to me,” Pridgeon said.
His goal is to make it to 50 years as a poll worker, and he hopes by the time he’s done, he’ll start to see younger people take on the responsibility.
“When I get home, I’m tired. I used to get home and still be full enough of energy and cut the grass and do things. But now when I get home, I have to sit down and replenish my energy, so I can come and do it the next day,” Pridgeon said. “I wouldn't miss it. I wouldn't miss it. I'm moving a little slower, but I'm still getting it done.”
“I love it. I love it. I look forward to elections just like kids look forward to Christmas. I mean, this is what I do,” Pridgeon said.
Pridgeon’s mom, who is now 89 years old, still works polling sites, and she’s the person who inspired him start in the first place.
The N.C. State Board of Elections says staffing levels at polling sites across the state are solid, and officials don’t have any concerns leading up to Election Day, which is less than a week away. Early voting ends Saturday.