January 14, 2014 // 10:36 AM

Election Efficiency at Garden Spot Village

Written by Scott Miller

In “Mending Wall,” poet Robert Frost questions whether “good fences make good neighbors.” Committed from its founding to being a good neighbor, Garden Spot Village connects with the surrounding community at every opportunity and warmly welcomes its neighbors to the campus. Over the last few years, team members found innovative ways to help address community issues such as a convenient place where people can exercise their right to vote.

Election Efficiency

The first time Bob Winegardner stood in line to vote at Garden Spot Village, he didn’t think the process was very efficient.

“They say, if you don’t like something, get involved,” he says, “so I volunteered to serve on the board of elections.”

Winegardner got involved and eventually was named judge of elections for Precinct 4202 Earl Township/New Holland, Pa., a position he has held for the last seven years. In that time, he and the board have worked hard to make sure that the polling place at Garden Spot Village runs as pleasantly and efficiently as possible—with full support from Garden Spot Village.

“Someone said, ‘why don’t we help people park?’ so we recruited five or six residents to stand near the entrance and direct traffic,” Winegardner says.

Campus Services posts signs so Amish arriving by carriage can easily find horse ties, and provides water for the horses.

Winegardner and his team also tackled the queues. Chairs had been used as dividers; they turned them around so people could sit if they got tired. They also spent time with Facilities Services mapping out the all-purpose room to determine how to set up lines to accommodate voters who might have wheelchairs or scooters. They broke the voting records into three books instead of two, so sign-in moves faster.

Still, Winegardner sees room for improvement. For next election, the board will have a computer onsite for quick answers in the event of a registration question.

An Apolitical Machine

When Winegardner first took over as judge of elections, about half of the board came from off campus. When openings came up, he would call the election committee for a list of those who had volunteered to work the polls.

“Guess where they lived?” says Winegardner. All seven members lived at Garden Spot Village.

After the voting equipment is delivered the day before the election, Facilities Services helps move the electronic booths and privacy booths for paper votes up to the all-purpose room, and the delivers chairs. The election board organizes the room, unpacks the equipment and secures the room according to strict procedures they learned at training led by the county election board.

“Up to that Monday afternoon, we’re involved in politics. We’ll talk, we’ll discuss, we have opinions. Once we start to set it up, that ends,” says Winegardner. “Everybody on the team understands that we’re there to do a process. We’re all cross-trained, so we can take breaks or in case somebody’s sick, we can all do each other’s jobs.”

On Tuesday the volunteers are on hand to open the polls, and their jobs don’t end until well after the last vote has been cast. It’s a long day, but worth every effort. Whether it’s making the first-time voter feel welcome and important or providing a warm, dry place that removes any barriers to casting a ballot, Winegardner says, “It’s important that we provide that to the community.”

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