Longtime Poll Workers Recall When Elections Were Exciting

Article excerpt

"I voted."

Ethel Inglett and Edith Nixon estimate they've given out a

bazillion of those lapel stickers during their combined century

of service as election workers.

And they're happy to provide those red, white and blue

testaments to civic duty, too.

"The voters seem very proud of those things," said Nixon, who

says she's in her late 70s.

Nearly everyone, they say, gets one -- even those too young to

know a precinct from a playpen.

"Of course, the kids have to have them, too, especially the

little ones," said Inglett, 84. "We put them on the kids and

tell them, `See, you beat Mama and Daddy to the voting booth.'

They love that."

Nixon and Inglett, who notched one more election yesterday, go

back to a time when Jacksonville had only about half the number

of its current 257 precincts. The larger precincts often meant

longer lines, they said, particularly in presidential elections.

In the 1940s and '50s, many folks would walk to the polls. And

there was more chitchat; more of a festive feel to the event.

"It just seemed a lot more exciting," said Inglett, a longtime

resident of the Lake Forest area. "There was a hustle and

bustle. Some of those elections -- I think it was a couple of

[Franklin] Roosevelt's -- they'd be lined up down the street.

"Today, there's not much to it. They do it and get on with it.

But then, maybe the candidates nowadays have something to do

with it. A lot of them don't seem too exciting, either."

Nixon, who lives in the Eastside, recalls a less glowing side

of past elections: a time of legal segregation.

When she first registered to vote, she had to use the back door

of the YMCA on East Duval Street. Eventually, her husband, a

precinct committeeman, suggested to their councilman that they

create polling places "where just black people could vote -- and

in my case, work," Nixon said.

She later got a full-time job in the downtown elections office. …