For the 85-year-old, a Santa Clara native and a Scotts Valley resident for the past 32 years, working elections has always been a part of her life. She began by watching her father deliver wood-and-canvas voting booths and her mother work polling places during her childhood in the 1930s and 1940s, and she worked her first election 60 years ago.
“I’ve been a poll worker since (President Dwight D.) Eisenhower was elected in the early 1950s,” Adkins said.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen attended the meeting of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to personally recognize Adkins and Carol Marchbank of Live Oak for their decades of dedicated service at the polls. Marchbank worked her first election in 1957.
Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin said she admired the two women’s efforts.
“That’s a lot of dedication,” Pellerin said. “I hope it inspires others.”
Bowen presented certificates to Adkins and Marchbank recognizing their years of service, and she expressed hope that their example would reverberate with the young people in the audience and inspire them to get involved.
Supervisor John Leopold, who represents both women as the county’s 1st District supervisor, gave each a certificate of the county’s appreciation, calling them “two of the leaders in the 1st District.”
Adkins recalled counting and sorting ballots by hand during her first election as a poll worker in San Jose in 1952.
“We had to stay awake all night counting ballots,” she said. “We didn’t get through counting until noon the next day.
“It was some kind of a way to get indoctrinated into the system.”
Adkins has worked the polls for nearly every election since then, missing only seven years while she lived in West Virginia in the 1960s.
Since moving to Scotts Valley in 1980, Adkins — the vice regent of the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution — has been a regular sight at the polls, sometimes sporting a red, white and blue costume.
Reflecting on more than a half-century working to welcome voters, she noted that each Election Day brings small changes to the voting process.
“Every election is a little bit different, as far as things we have to know,” she said, referring to the pre-election training all election workers must go through.
“(The ballots are) all fixed to be put through. They make it very easy for people to vote.”
Pellerin explained that the elections department relies heavily on volunteers and said she was grateful that Adkins’ and Marchbank’s efforts were being recognized.
“Election Day could not happen without our poll workers,” Pellerin said. “It’s definitely a front-row seat to democracy.”
Pellerin encouraged community members, particularly young people, to follow Adkins’ example and volunteer.
“It’s worth giving up a day for,” she said.
Adkins worked the June 5 presidential primary election and said she planned to be at a Scotts Valley polling place for the Nov. 6 general election — the same day as her 86th birthday.
“I figure it’s a patriotic privilege to be a part of the elections process,” Adkins said. “I like to see people. I look forward to it.”
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