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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Time to put in time at the polls

July 14. 2013 9:22PM

What are you doing Election Day? You want to make some money for hanging out with your neighbors?

OK, it's definitely not that simple. But Maura Leahy, administrative assistant at the City Clerk's Office, said working the polls is a great activity that more young people should get involved in.

"It's a great community event," she said. "You meet a lot of people, and you're the first one to find out who won."

Talking with Leahy, a St. Anselm graduate who has been working in the City Clerk's Office for about four years, made me realize I know nothing about how our elections are run and who the people are who make it all happen. I learned that the people you see working the polls are a mix of elected and non-elected officials. The elected positions are one moderator, one ward clerk and three selectmen for each ward. The appointed positions are multiple ballot inspectors and deputy registrars.

You can find a detailed description of each job at, but basically, the moderator is in charge for the day and the other people are responsible for checking in voters, handing out ballots, keeping track of paperwork and maintaining general order.

All the workers are paid between $150 and $200 for each election day, but it's still difficult to fill all the positions. Leahy and her co-workers find themselves asking friends and neighbors to do the jobs. Sometimes, she said, even the elected positions wind up empty for one reason or another.

"In that case, we typically deputize someone," she said. Deputize? Surely we have enough people in our city to run for these positions that we don't need to be deputizing civilians like a sheriff in the old west.

People are busy, and the volunteers who do come forward are typically retired people who have the time to spend all day at the polls. But it's very demanding work. "It's a long day," Leahy said. "At least 12 hours. You need to be able to keep up and deal with people."

That's why she is hoping to get some younger people with more energy interested in some of these positions and learn the process from the more experienced workers.Pat Martin, a former ballot inspector in Ward 2 and Ward 4 moderator, said she was fortunate to have a good group of young people working with her in Ward 4.

"It really made a difference," she said, adding they were usually the first ward to have all their ballots and paperwork handed in. And although Martin said she really enjoyed meeting new people and seeing old friends on Election Day, she has decided to pass on working the polls this time around to spend more time with her grandson, Cooper.

If you are interested in running for an elected two-year position, the filing period ends at 5 p.m. this Friday. You must be a registered voter and live in the ward you are running in. The elected positions are for two years and will not start until the 2014 elections.

If you are not quite ready to run for a position, why not test the waters as a ballot inspector or deputy registrar? You only have to be 17 to fill one of these non-elected positions at the Sept. 17 primary election. And did I mention you get paid? To learn more, just call the City Clerk's Office at 624-6455 and they will get you started.

People like Martin have put their time in. Now it's time for someone else to step up to the plate and help make our elections happen. Well, not me of course. I'm much too busy. But I'll be cheering the rest of you on all the way.

Stay Local Saturday with NH365.ORG

During the summer months, it seems like a lot of the fun activities to do around New Hampshire happen outside Manchester. I've always said the beauty of our city is its close proximity to the ocean, lakes and mountains. An adventure is just an hour away.

But offers so many Manchester festivities this Saturday, I am declaring it Stay Local Saturday. You'll have to save that trip to The Flume for another time.

A visit to two "fests" on Elm Street will have to be done strategically because bounce houses at the third annual Manchester Monarchs Summer Fan Fest after the all-you-can taste Merchant's Auto 'What's the Scoop?' Ice Cream Fest cannot end well.

Fan Fest at 10 a.m.

To commemorate the halfway point between Monarchs seasons, the plaza outside the Verizon Wireless Arena will be turned into a carnival with bounce houses, a live band, photo opportunities with Max, and street hockey games with former Monarchs players. A portion of Elm Street, between Lake Avenue to Auburn Street, also will be closed for a street hockey tournament.

The carnival is free, but there is a fee to enter a team in the street hockey tournament. Visit for more information.

Ice Cream Fest at noon

The Fan Fest goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which leaves plenty of time for a quick walk up to the next "fest" at Veterans Park. From noon to 4 p.m., local ice cream shops, including Granite State Candies, The Puritan and Cremeland, will be on hand providing samples of their best ice cream flavors. This event is technically free, but $5 donations to the Salvation Army Kids' Café are suggested.

In addition to the ice cream, there will be special appearance by members of the Manchester police and fire departments.

And if you have a special entertainment skill that could add to this fun event, like face painting or balloon artistry, your volunteered time would be greatly appreciated. The Kids' Café is a very important organization in Manchester that helps feed the bellies and spirits of many needy children. If you can help, contact Andy Barnes at 627-7013, ext. 223.

Fiesta at 5:30 p.m.

The weekend's final "fest" is the Muchachos Drum & Bugle Corps' 7th annual Fiesta de Musica Drum & Bugle Corps Competition. Five groups from as far away as Quebec and Michigan will perform in this outdoor, family-friendly music and marching competition featuring elements of athleticism, dance, choreography and musicianship with interesting drumming and percussion styles. Ken Vachon, publicity chairman for the event, said most of the visiting musicians are high school or college students who are spending the entire summer touring different states as part of Drum Corps International's 2013 Summer Music Tour, which ends with the Drum Corps World Championship finals on Aug. 10 in Indianapolis.

Saturday's show, which starts at 5:30 p.m. at Memorial High School, is the only New Hampshire stop on the tour.

Tickets are $12 for adults, seniors and kids under 12. For more information, call (978)743-9584 or visit

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