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Ottumwa Resident Volunteers for 25th Year for Elections

By Pat Brink, News Director

OTTUMWA, IA (KYOU) – There she is…at her normal election day spot at Camelot Towers, precinct number 10 in Ottumwa. Her name is Bonnie Rowell and she has been a constant fixture at this polling place for the past 25 years, ever since she moved to town.

“I enjoy it, I enjoy the people coming in, I Enjoy the job and It’s something to do. It gets me away from the kids for the day and gets me around adults because I babysit during the day,” said Bonnie.

That babysitting likely conditions her for the 16 and a half hour days she regularly puts in on election days. But that work ethic is in her makeup, she worked for JC Penny for 22 years and never missed a day of work there, instead she used a vacation day to be at polls. That dedication was put to the test earlier this year.

“Well I fell in May, at the end of May I fell, fractured my pelvis, but I still worked June 7th on the primary. I went over and spent 16 hours over there. I would not miss!”

Before moving into the city Bonnie worked in the county, helping with elections there since either 1966 or 1968, she’s of quite sure of the exact year. She’s seen all kinds of things happen at the polling place, from smoke filling the room because of a broken flue in a wood burning fire place, to a swarm of bees in the room, to water coming through the ceiling…but one polling place stands out in her memory…a Tent!

“And at one time, when I was still out there they put us in a tent out by the highway there, by the skating rink. And that was really quite the day because it was windy that day… we wasn’t sure if the canvas was going to stay put or not.  Did the ballots blow away?  We held onto them…we held onto them.”

Besides moving to better facilities, Bonnie has also seen a world of other changes, especially in the actual way people vote.

“The machine, basically like the voting machine, where you would go in and pull the curtain. And then it went from that to just a box where you put the ballots in and they would count them at the courthouse. Now it’s a machine we put it in and they are pre-counted and now we have the computers which are able to count as they go in.”

By the way, Bonnie votes in each election, but she votes when there is a spare moment on election day and today she’s not sure when that will happen.

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