Every election hundreds of poll workers across West Virginia begin the day early to ensure every voter has an opportunity to have their voice heard, and to ensure that the ballots are maintained in a secure and confidential manner.
Ruth Wilfong Horner is one such poll worker, serving in every election for the past 60 years. She began to “work the election” in 1954, and would have continued her unbroken record, but she was unable to work in 2016.
Last Thursday was Horner’s 95th birthday, and members of the community and government officials gathered at the Green Bank Senior Center to celebrate her birthday and honor her for her years of dedicated service to the election process.
Pocahontas County Clerk Missy Bennett explained that the clerk’s office wanted to do something special for Horner when they realized how long she had been a volunteer.
Horner spoke to Bennett and asked if the records showed how long she had worked.
“We searched our records and found that she started with the primary election of 1954, and we also knew that today was her birthday, so one of the girls in the office said we should do something and I said, ‘yes, we should,’” Bennett said. “We were just planning something [small] and then I thought we need to call the Secretary of State’s office. So we called, and it just started taking shape.”
Bennett presented Horner with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Pocahontas County Commission and thanked her for her willingness to work at the polls.
“We do have good election workers – and sixty years – that’s to be commended,” Bennett said.
Joining in the celebration was Secretary of State field service representative Darrell Shull, who also thanked Horner.
“The first line of defense for fair elections is our poll workers and for the years 1954 to 2014, every election in West Virginia, more than nine thousand poll workers across the state gathered to conduct fair elections, but one of them gathered at every single one of them,” Shull said of Horner.
Shull presented Horner with a Certificate of Appreciation from Secretary of State Mack Warner.
Horner was grateful for the recognition and humbly accepted the certificates.
Although she doesn’t remember exactly why she came to be a poll worker, Horner did say a neighbor who was a poll worker probably asked her to help and she did.
As part of the ceremony, those in attendance joined in singing “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed birthday cake made by Shirley Carpenter.