She has witnessed Election Day shouting matches between people whose passion for their candidate loudly overflowed. She’s overseen elections while pregnant — on her due date. And then there was that one election held at a bar.

Sans alcohol.

If you’ve cast a ballot Lewiston in the past 14 years, chances are you know Kathy Montejo. Or, at least, you know her work. With help from a team of volunteers and city employees, she’s been the backbone of elections in Lewiston for years. 

And she has some stories to tell.

Name: Kathleen Montejo

Age: 44

Married/relationship/single: Married

Residence: Bowdoinham

Job: Lewiston city clerk

How long have you been working elections? For almost 22 years. I graduated from the University of Maine in 1991 with a degree in public administration and was hired by the town of Woolwich that December as the town clerk. I worked there for a few years, then as the Bath city clerk for two years, then came to Lewiston January 1999.

What’s the best part about working Election Day? Getting out to the polls and seeing all of the citizens. It is great to interact directly with them. Also, seeing all of the election preparation work finally come together. This election process started for us in July with the availability of nomination papers and it just builds from that date forward. Election Day is the single largest one-day event the city administers. The city also has a great election team and they make it all very easy. We hire about 130 citizens to work at the polls for each major election.

What’s the hardest part? Getting up at 4 a.m.! But I know a lot of people do that every day so I certainly don’t complain. The hardest part of Election Day is trying to be in eight places at once — the seven ward polling locations and at City Hall for questions and processing absentee ballots. Thankfully, the city has an outstanding election team of citizen election workers at the polls and they only call the office when they have a major problem. The citizen election wardens and ward clerks (polling place supervisors) are the real unsung heroes on Election Day and they keep the process running smoothly for the voters.

What’s the strangest thing that you’ve ever had happen during an election? We held an election in a bar once! For the past 10 years, the Lewiston Lodge of Elks has served as a polling place for Ward 6 and they have been an excellent partner with us in the election process. One of the objectives of their organization is patriotism and they have been extremely supportive of the voting process. A few years ago, they inadvertently double-booked their function hall on Election Day and I was not notified of this until the day before the election. We did not have time to line up a new site, so I asked if we could vote in the members-only side in their lounge. They were extremely accommodating, and public works set up the voting booths right along the entire bar. And, no, they did not serve alcohol that day!

Have you ever had someone try to vote twice? On a town level, no, but on a state level, it does happen rarely. Due to the statewide centralized system of voter registration (every town uses the same master database system and it is all interconnected), it is detected if the same person votes more than once in the same election. They may try to vote in two separate towns on Election Day. The Secretary of State’s Office pursues it and will prosecute the voter, because it is a violation of state law.

Do people ever get heated in line, arguing that their candidate is better? Some voters do tend to get passionate about certain issues or candidates, which is great – we love to see strong voter involvement. But, we have not had any fistfights break out in line on Election Day. There have been a few yelling matches in the parking lot that I have witnessed, though.

When do you get a chance to vote on Election Day? I always vote by absentee ballot — very easy and convenient.

How long is Election Day for you? It is a 20-hour day from waking up at 4 a.m. and going to bed by (hopefully) midnight. There is a lot of adrenaline on Election Day, so it keeps you going. Wednesday we are busy with completing all of the required state reports for the election. We do usually crash a bit by Thursday.

Where do all those little voting booths come from? Is there a voting booth salesman? Yes! There is a voting booth salesman! His name is Ken and he works out of New Hampshire. There are several national companies that sell election supplies. The city, however, has not purchased new voting booths in over 20 years.

Machine-counting ballots must make things fun and easy, right? They really do! I refer to the voting machines as “my best friend” on Election Day. They can make or break the entire day for us. Hand counting the ballots is not bad when there are only one or two questions on the ballot, but given the quantity of ballots that we have in Lewiston, we do love the voting machines and could not do a major election without them. There is a new style of voting machine that most Mainers will be using for the first time on Tuesday. We encourage residents to visit the “Elections” section of the city’s website to see a five-minute video about the new machines.

Have you ever thought about just taking that day off? Every year! Truth be told, I really do enjoy the formality of the process and love interacting directly with the voters, so I would miss it. I have never missed an election in all these years, including coming in while still on medical leave two weeks after back surgery, coming in while still on maternity leave from the birth of my first daughter and working the full day in November 2010 when election day was the actual due date of my second child. Needless to say, in all three instances I just stayed in the office and did not go out to the polls. And thankfully I did not go into labor on Election Day!

What is the highest number of elections you have coordinated in one year? Seven! We were in election mode all year – as soon as we finished one election, we immediately started prepping for the next one, and a few times the election work overlapped. The Lewiston City Clerk’s staff is fabulous — one of the best in the state. They deserve all of the credit for getting the work done in a professional manner.


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