Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

December 31, 2012

Challenges many in election office

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — The challenges have been many for Garvin County’s election board secretary as she looks back to her time in the office before preparing to step away.

Cathy Brinley is officially serving through the end 2012 before making way for her replacement, Doylene Cunningham, who on Jan. 2 will be the next person to oversee elections in this county.

Brinley steps down after serving as the election board secretary since May 2008.

During that time she’s faced a lot of challenges not often seen in the office — from doing all the little things just right when a grand jury is convened to political parties petitioning to be officially recognized on the ballot.

Then there’s that rare time when a tie comes from a two-candidate race, which came in May 2009 when a contest for a municipal office in Pauls Valley finished with the winner later being chosen in a random drawing.

Of all the challenges the biggest one for Brinley has been making sure all the right people were in place when an election is held.

“The biggest challenge is getting enough people to volunteer as a precinct worker,” Brinley said.

“The pool of people being able to do an all day assignment like this one is really small,” she said. “Some of them have been doing this for 30 years and some are over 80-years old and they’re still doing it.

“It used to be a big deal for the person selected to be at a precinct. It’s not like it used to be when it was more of a volunteer thing and there were plenty of people to step in and serve as precinct workers.”

These days an election board secretary needs to find three people willing to work at each precinct in the county throughout all of an election day for a relatively minimal fee.

Another challenge was the start of Brinley’s tenure as she went right into a couple of big elections in 2008, the primary and general elections that year.

It was a presidential election with plenty of interest from voters.

Both elections set Garvin County records for the largest turnouts for in-person absentee voting at the election board office in the county courthouse in Pauls Valley.

The record number of early voters showed Brinley the office itself did not have sufficient space for the absentee activity.

She later found the money to pay for the office to be remodeled and even slightly expanded allowing for more room to get in-person absentee voters in and out efficiently.

Brinley admits those first elections were tough but it still went OK.

“The primary went well and general election went even smoother,” she said about the 2008 elections.

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of two parts as Brinley reflects on her time as the election board secretary. Check out more in the Jan. 1 edition of the PV Democrat.)