Ward 1 Precinct Captain on the Job for 20 Years

The fatigue was evident in her eyes. She’d been at the Banneker Community Recreation Center since 5 a.m. and at 3:30 in the afternoon, her day was far from being over. 

“Not only am I tired, but I’m sick with a cold,” said Rita J. Dorsey, the captain for voting precinct 37. “But this is something I like to do, so I do it. I just do it.”

A small bottle of Tylenol Extra Strength sat on the white table in front of her, in the middle of a bunch of papers, some describing voting procedures. Dorsey sat sideways in her chair, watching around the room. The eight other volunteers working alongside her were dispersed throughout the square white room, performing various tasks.

A Ward 1 resident herself, Dorsey has been volunteering as an election official for 20 years. She started in 1990, when she went to voting precinct 38. She developed a deep interest, and soon she was hooked.

She has been overseeing elections ever since. Throughout the years, some rules and regulations have changed but the voting process itself has basically stayed the same, she said.

During mid-afternoon Election Day, voters came in and out one by one at a steady pace. As soon as one person came in the room, voted and left, another person followed in to do the same. This morning, however, Dorsey said 25 people were waiting outside at 2500 Georgia Ave. N.W. when the doors opened for voting at 7 a.m.

“It isn’t hard to service them and get them out,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey voted two and a half weeks ago during early voting. She noticed that mostly older adults took advantage of the opportunity to cast their ballot early from Sept. 4 until Sept. 11. Today, she saw a mix of young and older voters.

Outside the Banneker Community Center, young people, some clad in blue shirts and some in green, set up shop on opposite sides of the street. One side was the green Fenty team, holding up bright green campaign signs that read “FENTY” in big white letters. On the other side of Howard Place and Georgia Avenue, Vincent Gray’s blue team straddled the curb. The energetic group wore blue shirts and waved around blue posters that read “Vince Gray FOR Mayor” in red and white letters.

A Metrobus driving past their side seemed to favor the Gray team, as the driver honked at them several times to show support. Gray’s team met the boisterous honks with cheers and chants.

Red Jim Graham campaign signs were posted along the sidewalks, urging voters to reelect Ward 1’s D.C. councilmember.

As far as campaigning herself, Dorsey doesn’t participate in that. She has no signs on her yard on Water Street or bumper stickers on her car.

“I don’t get into the politics,” Dorsey said. “I do the work.” As an employee of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, she stays away from involvement in the politics.

After  closing the precinct at 8 p.m., Dorsey has lots of reports to turn in. All the signs on the walls have to come down, materials need to be picked up and voting stations packed up.

After her second full day of working, Dorsey plans to take a breather tomorrow on her day off and tend to her cold.