MMI staffer finds volunteering at polling place rewarding

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC strategic communications | November 20, 2020

Image with caption: The Munroe-Meyer Institute's Sherri Kallon, left, with an official election observer. The longtime community volunteer finds election poll work satisfying.

The Munroe-Meyer Institute's Sherri Kallon, left, with an official election observer. The longtime community volunteer finds election poll work satisfying.

As a longtime volunteer in her community, Sherri Kallon, said "yes" when asked to work the polls on Election Day. It was her first time volunteering at the polls, and it won't be her last, she said.

Another newbie at the polls -- the ExpressVote Universal Voting System, which was available for voters with disabilities. Kallon called it a fascinating machine.

It includes an audio function with headset and earphones to listen to choices, a feature to increase the size of type, a touch screen, a Braille keypad, a sip/puff tube for voters not able to use the touch screen or touch pad and the ability to cast a vote for write-in candidates. The system produces a verifiable paper record for each voter.

"It made me feel humbled to be available to assist individuals with disabilities and first-time voters," said Kallon, who works as a program associate for the Munroe-Meyer Institute. "I personally assisted and spoke with two first-time voters -- one was my neighbor's son Ethan; the other was a Burmese refugee."

Even though it was a long day -- from 6:50 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. -- Kallon said it was worth it. She recommends the experience to others "without a doubt."

"I loved it. You see your community, your neighbors come in," Kallon said. "It was a secure, smooth process, I truly enjoyed it.

"I'm a community person. For the majority of my life I've been a volunteer," she said.

She chose her polling location at Northwest High School, which is part of her community, and she was assigned to support individuals with disabilities who elected to vote in-person. She was one of 12 volunteers at the polling place.

Requirements are stringent to be a poll worker. There was a background check and two days of training on all the procedures and rules. Part of her role was to report observations and any instances of concern, and there were a lot of instructions on what to do if questions or issues arose.

As one of the checks and balances, registered Democrats are paired with registered Republicans.

She said voters were considerate and there were no problems.

"It was nice to see first-time voters. That gave me the most joy -- to see first time voters -- the pride in it," Kallon said. "I found out my sister-in-law from El Salvador stood in line for more than two hours to vote for the first time. It gave me such pride in making sure everyone had a voice."

Kallon wasn't the only one happy about volunteering. She said her husband, who lived under a dictatorship in Africa, was proud of her working the polls.

"When you have experienced your entire life living in a dictatorship, it is truly an honor to vote in a democracy," Kallon said.

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Janice Tompkins
November 20, 2020 at 10:02 AM

So happy to hear stories like this. Thank you for helping first-time voters and voters with disabilities. So glad they could vote!

Carol McMorris
November 20, 2020 at 9:20 AM

Thanks for sharing! I've worked two presidential elections. All the precautions and procedures used to secure fair voting are impressive. I recommend anyone who doubts how valid election results are, to actually work the polls.

Tom O’Connor
November 20, 2020 at 8:44 AM

What a great story. Thanks for stepping up, Sherri. You make us proud!

Catherine Mello
November 20, 2020 at 8:38 AM

Thank you so much for volunteering!

Lana Reichardt
November 20, 2020 at 8:37 AM

Thanks for sharing your story and most importantly, thanks for your service.