It's election judges like Mary Rehagen who help Cole County's elections run smoothly.
Rehagen, a Republican supervisor, has been one of the long-time election workers for the Cole County Clerk's Office. She's worked at her polling place, Capital City Christian Church, for about 18 years.
She started around the time she retired as a state worker in 2003.
"I like knowing I'm doing something important," she said. "I just like working the elections. We live on Stadium (Boulevard), and it's just up the hill to the church. I get to see a lot of my neighbors."
She and a Democrat supervisor oversee poll operations at the church at 1608 Swifts Highway. They, along with two other judges, work at the poll, which serves as the Ward 2, Precinct 3 polling location. The precinct has about 1,500 voters.
The job entails attending meetings for poll workers to learn about any changes, then going to the poll site the day before to set up. On Election Day, she arrives at the poll location at about 5 a.m. to ready for the 7 a.m. opening. She helps ready the machines and initial the ballots, among other things.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poll work involves sanitizing and making sure the poll accommodates for social distancing.
During the day, they oversee operations and deal with any problems that might arise, such as voters who are at the wrong polling place and people who aren't registered to vote. If it's something they need help with, they call the clerk's office.
Making sure you're registered, she said, is key.
"I think that is the most important thing," she said. "People need to know they have to register. Some people come in and don't know if they've registered or where they've registered. We cannot let them vote, but we can fill out a registration right there and they can vote next time. It's very important that those registrations get in and people are ready to vote."
After the polls close at 7 p.m., the two supervisors count the ballots and bring them to the clerk's office. By about 8 p.m. — after a 15-hour day — they get to go home.
When she's not working elections, Rehagen helps her husband, Dave, who works part time in retirement as a floor covering installer.
They're active in St. Peter Catholic Church, where Mary Rehagen quilts with a group on Mondays. On Monday nights, the Rehagens are part of a rosary group they started about 25 years ago. They and several other couples rotate houses each week, praying the rosary and visiting with each other.
Their eight grandchildren — as well as some great-grandchildren — also keep the couple busy. They've attended their share of sporting events and dance recitals, among other things.
Mary Rehagen also enjoys working in her yard and giving rides, such as to the doctor or grocery stores, to a couple of women she knows who are advancing in age.
With everything else going on in her life, she doesn't forget to vote. It's something she's always considered important. Helping with elections is an extension of that.
"It's something I enjoy, it's something that I feel is needed, so that's what I want to do," she said.