FARGO - At Monday's early voting for the city's first special election since 2009, every clerk, judge and inspector seemed to know one another.
"It's like a reunion," said 67-year-old Dick Brothers, who retired from Job Service about eight years ago and became an election inspector not long after. "I see all my friends."
Many of Brothers' co-workers at the Baymont Inn had similar stories. They retired, started working on an election board, made friends and never stopped.
"It is a social thing, absolutely," said election coordinator DeAnn Buckhouse. "Especially for those who are doing it election after election, they get to see the same people, so it's a chance to catch up."
But the close-knit team that makes elections run smoothly-checking IDs, handing out ballots, giving instructions-also feels a strong sense of civic duty.
"It's something we give back," said Luana Vetter, who's been a clerk for 20 years. "Somebody's got to do it."
"And not everybody can, and not everybody wants to," added Alice Prokop, another clerk.
"Most people don't want to," Vetter said with a laugh. "It's a long day."
Election judge Christy Larson, 65, said she planned to work three 10-hour days this week, and that's just for early voting. She'll work again next Tuesday for the election, one of about a dozen she's judged in 10 years.
Buckhouse said she prefers to hire seasoned workers like Larson.
"It's always good to get new blood in there, as well, but for me, people who know what they're doing-it's much easier to refresh them on the procedure and the equipment than it is to teach them from scratch," she said.
Seventy workers are staffing this election from start to finish, Buckhouse said.
Early voting is 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Wednesday at the Baymont Inn, formerly the Doublewood.
On Monday afternoon, a steady trickle of voters walked into that site, a mark of early voting's growing popularity since the city started offering it in 2008, Buckhouse said.
"It's wonderful to see people of all ages and all everything," said election judge Rachael Disrud. "It's meaningful, and it's what it's about."
Larson, too, said the voters are what keep her coming back. "I just like being with people," she said.
But the bottom line for her-for all of them-is that it's the right thing to do.
"I think everybody should do something to help out their community," Brothers said. "I was born and raised here, so it's good to do something to pay back-besides taxes."