Poll worker lauded for 75 years of service

California’s longest-serving poll worker was honored today in San Francisco by Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Elisa Kennedy, 96, has hosted a polling place in her San Francisco home and/or has worked as a poll worker in nearly every election for the last 75 years, Bowen’s office said. Her service began shortly after she reached eligible voting age and has spanned more than 120 elections.

Kennedy was four and a half years old when the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was ratified.

“A lot has changed in politics and in the world since Elisa first volunteered as a poll worker 75 years ago, but her commitment to democracy and her devotion to her community has remained constant,” Bowen said in a news release issued Tuesday. “The people of San Francisco have been fortunate to have Elisa help elections run smoothly and I am so grateful to her and thousands of others who volunteer to serve as poll workers year after year.”

Bowen presented Kennedy with a medal from the National Association of Secretaries of State; the award recognizes individuals or groups with a record of outstanding service and dedication to elections, civic education, or service to state government.

“It’s been in my blood,” Kennedy said in Bowen’s news release. “I find it very rewarding, in that I’ve met so many people through the years and it’s been a great satisfaction to me. It’s the wonderful people.”

Bowen noted that each statewide election requires a one-day workforce of 100,000 poll workers in more than 24,000 polling places across California. Poll workers help secure ballots, educate voters about their rights, ensure accessibility for voters with disabilities, and more. A poll worker is paid an average of $100 for the day’s work, though rates vary among counties.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.