One of the faces in the new Registrar of Voters’ marketing materials might be familiar to many Tustin voters.

Orange County
Registrar of Voters
Orange County Poll Worker Insights

If you were to put yourself in Kathy Barnthouse’s shoes, you’d have to walk pretty quickly to keep up. Every day, three times a day, Kathy laces up her sneakers and heads out on a one mile walk. She walks a mapped-out course in her Tustin neighborhood most days, and on the rare Orange County day when it’s rainy, she uses the treadmill in her home. 

“I don’t eat healthy but living healthy in general is important to me,” the retired grandmother of three and self-professed Jack In the Box addict admits. “I can eat anything I want and I don’t gain weight because I walk so much.” Kathy knows all the employees at her local Jack in the Box by name, and sometimes even runs into some of the restaurant staff on her daily walks. Most of the time, her order is ready before she has finished paying, and the employees know to give her a lemon in her iced tea without even asking. 

So it was only natural that Kathy headed over to – where else? – a Jack in the Box during a break on a photo shoot for the Registrar of Voters she participated in last October. A poll worker in Orange County since 2000, Kathy had been asked by the Registrar of Voters office to act as a model for some pictures the department was taking for use in its new website and brochures. The Registrar of Voters had specifically recruited Kathy for the job because of her long-time poll worker commitment and her friendly, giving nature.

Nervous at first, Kathy began to settle in to her new role as a model after sitting behind a table with a combined roster-index on it and talking to some other extras on hand. Feeling at home in a poll worker setting, Kathy relaxed and enjoyed feeling like a celebrity at the photo shoot. 

"I had a blast! We did the shoot in a garage on a residential street, and people were driving by and looking at us. I told the photographers they made me look good when they showed me the pictures afterwards,” Kathy laughs.

Having served as a Clerk or Inspector in nine elections with the county over the past 11 years, Kathy quickly noticed a new prop being used in the photo shoot: a single envelope to be used for all provisional voters in future elections. This innovation from the Registrar of Voters will be introduced in the June 2012 Primary Election and will allow all provisional voters to complete one envelope, replacing the previous two envelopes (one blue, one white) that were filled out depending on the provisional voting situation. Kathy, who finds answering questions around provisional voting to be one of the biggest challenges as a poll worker on Election Day, is excited about this change. “Provisional voting can be time-consuming since there are a lot of different situations. Now that there is only one envelope, I won’t have to spend time figuring out whether to give a voter a blue or a white one.” 

Kathy enjoys being involved in elections because of the upbeat, cheery attitudes most voters bring to the polls with them. “My biggest reward is the people coming in to vote and their attitudes and comments. They say things like, ‘We are so glad you volunteered to do this. We know you have a long day.’” She loves when adults bring their children in with them to polling places so that children can see the process and get excited about voting. 

Community involvement like this is fundamental to Kathy’s life.  After 35 years as a special services technician at the phone company, Kathy retired in 2000 and, within two years, found herself wanting to do something to stay busy and help others. She took classes, became a certified nursing assistant, and began working with an agency to provide care to elderly patients. With her strong work ethic and desire to help others, Kathy soon began working with patients five days a week. But she eventually reduced her schedule to just one client per week so that she could devote more time to her family, although she plans to continue as a nursing assistant and provide care for friends and family members who need help. 

“There’s always someone I know who is getting older and needing assistance,” Kathy says. “At one time or another, you’re going to be in that situation, and I think I would like someone to come in and be nice to me when it’s my turn.” 

When she isn’t doing photo shoots, working at elections, or helping patients, Kathy volunteers at her youngest granddaughter’s school. She is active in the PTA, serves as a running coach for first graders, and conducts hearing and vision checks for students at the school. She also schedules her daily walks around her granddaughter’s school schedule, heading over to a sports park near the school for a walk after dropping her granddaughter off at school on Monday mornings.

Look for Kathy in new informational brochures from the Registrar of Voters or at a polling place this June. Or – if you can catch her – walking through a neighborhood near you.