Paul Robinson, 80, of Lewiston will help count absentee ballots on election day Tuesday. He began working the polls in Lewiston in the early 2000s. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Paul Robinson lived overseas for many years, so when he finally retired and settled he had an itch to get involved in his community.

That led Robinson, now 80, to begin working the polls in Lewiston in the early 2000s. He’ll be on hand July 14 in a year that has upended local election planning and has caused many longtime election workers to stay home.

Robinson said he had already told the clerk’s office to put his name down.

“People are being careful, which is understandable,” he said. “But, if I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it.”

While other volunteers will staff the Longley School polling location, Robinson will be on hand at City Hall, helping count absentee ballots.

Due to COVID-19, Lewiston and other municipalities have already seen record numbers of requests, and City Clerk Kathy Montejo is placing staffing accordingly.

Robinson said he’s confident that Montejo and her staff will have the proper precautions in place to conduct the school budget validation vote and state referendum.

Leading up to the rescheduled election, the city approved consolidating to a single polling location (Longley), in part to make it easier to implement safety precautions, and partly due to a shortage of poll workers.

Robinson has also served on other city boards, including the Zoning Board of Appeals, Finance Committee and Planning Board. He said he plans to continue working the polls for as long as he can.

“Each time we had an election, I just said, ‘Put my name down,'” he said. “Having time and being retired, it’s worked out quite nicely.”

For Paula Masselli, volunteering to work the polls has always been about “civic duty,” which she believes has decreased among communities.

“Without volunteers at the polls, you wouldn’t be able to have an election, and I enjoy giving back to my community,” she said, adding that the integrity of local elections is as important as ever.

Masselli, 63, is doing a double session on July 14, which means she’ll be at Longley from roughly 6 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m.

She’s worked the polls in every election since she began volunteering in the early 2000s. She said she’s not expecting a large turnout due to COVID-19 and increased absentee voting, but said it could provide a practice run for November.

Masselli said her age puts her in the “high-risk” category that may be keeping other election workers away this year.

“If they don’t want to be there, I don’t blame them because of what’s going on,” she said. “I’m hoping people come wearing a mask. It may cause a little more stress, but I’m going to be prepared.”

Masselli, who also sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals, said she’s concerned that with 6-foot distancing in place at Longley, voters may think there are long lines, when in fact they are moving smoothly.

According to Montejo, Lewiston hires more than 150 residents for large elections.

On July 14, each worker will receive (personal protection equipment) kits and supplies.

“Many voters may not realize the commitment offered by their neighbors and other community members,” she said. “We are so pleased to have such a dedicated crew of citizens who willingly step forward and run the election for the city. Many workers have done this for 10, 15, or 20 years and know the operation inside and out. The amount of institutional knowledge they bring each year is so beneficial to the voters.  We are lucky to have them and simply could not administer elections without their support and commitment.”

According to Montejo, the city pays $75 for a half day shift or $150 for the full day. Shifts are typically from 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 2:30-9 p.m.

Know someone with a deep well of unlimited public spirit? Someone who gives of their time to make their community a better place? Then nominate them for Kudos. Send their name and the place where they do their good deeds to reporter Andrew Rice at [email protected] and we’ll do the rest.


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