“It’s the life of America…one vote means everything,” said Joy Naifeh, Secretary of the Creek County Election Board.
Mrs. Naifeh remembers it like it was yesterday. She was a widow raising two teenagers. Marcus Horn, then-Secretary of the Creek County Election Board, asked if she’d like a position at his office. The Election Board was open six hours a day, perfect for a working mom.
Mrs. Naifeh holds herself with grace and said she “fell in love” with the process of voting and that we have the “best election system in the United States.”
While she left the Election Board for a time to be a court reporter and work at the State Election Board, she returned in 1995 to be Secretary and has held the position since.
She has seen many changes over the years, from counting ballots by hand, thread and needle being used to sew ballots together and sealing wax. A picture given to her from the Oklahoma Election Board, which states, “for leading Oklahoma with style and class to become the best election system in America,” hangs in the office and displays items that represent some of the changes she’s seen.
The same voting system is used in all seventy-seven Oklahoma counties. In the back room are the ballot machines that are kept for all thirty-five precincts. After an election, the ballots arrive, along with a flash drive. The three members of the election board remove the flash drive and the system reports to a special line owned by the election board.
The office is busy, with some kind of election happening almost every month. They oversee all county and school board elections. There are three permanent office staff members and a handful of part-time employees. Mrs. Naifeh exclaimed, “It’s been a wonderful gift to work here. It’s always new and fresh.”
One thing she stressed is that every vote counts, quite literally. Recounting a story that occurred years ago, she went on to tell of an election for Slick, Oklahoma, which resulted in a tie. Certified letters went out in the mail to inform the community and a coin was tossed to determine the winner, right in front of the Courthouse. After the winner was determined, she overheard the losing candidate turn to his wife and say, “Guess I should have voted.”
Mrs. Naifeh shares her passion of the importance of voting with family, too. Lynn Bingman, goddaughter of Mrs. Naifeh, told me that not only does the family rely on her for details of family history but, “She’s always talked about upcoming elections and encouraged voting. I joked with her when we moved to our current house, ‘Who do you have to know to get your polling place changed?’” Mrs. Naifeh retorted, “I’ll take care of that!”
Voting is usually a quick process. “One vote means everything,” she said, “If you are a thinking person why would you give up the chance to vote?”
Let your voice be heard and let your vote be counted. To register to vote, please drop by the Creek County Election Board at 230 East Hobson in Sapulpa or visit https://www.ok.gov