MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Hopping in her car and heading to a nearby polling center isn’t out of the ordinary for Mary Jane Wagner. It’s something she does every election season, not only to vote, but to serve as a poll worker.
She’s been doing it for 34 years.
“Over different years, you could see the different cast of characters come in for different elections,” Wagner said. “It’s been interesting.”
Wagner, now 66 years old, got her start when she moved to Manhattan Beach over three decades ago and went to vote. Someone at the polling center asked her to volunteer and she decided to try it out.
“It’s a couple of different things as to why I keep coming back, other than a glutton for punishment,” she said with a laugh.
All jokes aside, Wagner said it’s a chance to see people in her neighborhood she doesn’t regularly see anymore. But more importantly, being a poll worker gives her a front row seat to democracy.
“It’s what makes our country great in that we are able to vote in fair elections, and I think this one is really putting us to the test,” she said.
Wagner normally volunteers as an inspector at her local polling center, but this year, she’s working as a clerk and thrilled to help out with whatever is needed — whether it’s answering questions from voters waiting in line or setting up vote signs.
Wagner explained that over the years, whether an election was big or small, she always got a sense of who was going to win.
“You could kind of get a vibe and people would frequently tell you,” she said. “You didn’t have to ask them. They were excited about who they were voting for.”
Wagner is working three days this election at the Joslyn Community Center vote center. Each shift is at least 12 hours long, but no matter how long the day is, she always looks forward to chatting with her fellow poll workers.
“At the end of the day, aside from relief, it was great to see, get a feel of what we thought happened."