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CAMPAIGN 2013: Kin elect to serve together at polling place
All it took was a simple pitch from his mom: “You want to work a day and get $160?”
With that, 22-year-old Andrew Lawson agreed to become a third-generation election official at the Lee Hill Elementary School precinct in Spotsylvania County.
Today, he’ll be joining his mom, Donna Lawson, 51, and grandfather, John Adams, 77, who is the precinct chief.
“I look forward to meeting a lot of new people and kind of seeing what everything is about,” said Andrew, a George Mason University senior majoring in civil engineering.
But let’s be real—the pay didn’t hurt, either.
“I’m a college kid, so any money’s always good,” said Andrew, who doesn’t have any classes today.
Spotsylvania County Registrar Kellie Acors says she has seen plenty of married couples work the polls together and also knows of a mother–daughter team. But three generations at the same precinct is a first for her.
It’s also unusual for someone so young to be an election official.
“He’ll be, I think, one of the youngest people that has ever worked in a polling place,” Donna Lawson said. “When we go to the meetings, it’s mostly gray-haired people.”
John Adams, the grandfather, became an election official in late 2002, less than a year after he retired from RBI Corp.
“I had nothin’ to do,” Adams, no relation to the second president, says with a laugh.
Five years later, his daughter, a paraeducator at Ni River Middle School in Spotsylvania, decided to follow in his footsteps, mostly so she could spend time with her dad.
“I run, and I knew he could never run with me so I thought I’d do something like this,” Donna said.
“She’s always been her daddy’s girl,” her mom, Christine Adams, chimes in.
The father and daughter have a lot of fond memories, but last year’s presidential race wasn’t particularly fun. Long lines combined with mistakes setting up the voting machines made for a difficult day.
Adams didn’t get home until around 2 a.m.—more than 20 hours after he started working.
To make matters worse, poll workers didn’t get much to eat that day. By the time things quieted down enough for them to visit the potluck breakfast buffet, they discovered that a lot of it had been polished off by hungry voters.
“The trash can was full from everybody eating all the food,” Donna said.
Far fewer voters are expected to turn out for today’s election, though it’s likely the family will find ways to entertain themselves.
Donna says a tradition during slow elections is for each poll worker to predict how many voters will show up by, say, noon. The winner gets a newspaper, leftover drink or some other small prize.
Donna also recalls playing “crab soccer” with elementary schoolers in the gym during a low-turnout election. Adams sat out that competition, which has players running around on their hands and feet, face-up in a crabwalk.
“I was stealing the ball from kids,” Donna recalls with a laugh. “I had to stop. I didn’t know I was that competitive.”
The job also has its rewarding moments. Donna says she enjoys seeing teenagers vote for the first time.
And Adams mentions a lady with Parkinson’s disease who votes in every election. She even waited in line for two hours one year when she could’ve requested curbside voting, he said.
“I wish I would have that kind of commitment,” Adams said.
Looking past this year’s election, Andrew, the third-generation poll worker, says he sees himself staying on the job for as long as his mom.
“I think it’s going to end up being a marathon with my mom,” he said. “I think we’re just going to end up saying, ‘If you do it, I’ll do it.’”
Adams says he has one more presidential election left in him (he’ll be 80 in 2016), though his wife thinks he’s getting a little old for such a stressful job.
He’s doubtful he’ll ever work the polls with one of his five great-grandchildren, but he doesn’t completely rule out the possibility.
After all, Adams’ mom lived until she was 971/2.
“Who knows what the good Lord has in store for you,” he says.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402