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Meet the election inspector couple in charge of this Citrus Heights vote center

Larry and Margie Miramontes stand in front of a decorated Vote Center set up inside the Citrus Heights Community Center on Oct. 29, 2022. // M. Hazlip

Updated 10:24 a.m., Nov. 9th–
By Mike Hazlip—
Larry and Margie Miramontes have been working together at polling places in Citrus Heights for more than a decade to help give the people a voice in the government.

Margie Miramontes started working at the polls 22 years ago, she said, and her husband of 51 years, Larry, said this is his 11th year. With the official title of Election Inspector, the two oversee election operations at the polls.

The voting center at the Citrus Heights Community Center opened Oct. 29, and will remain open each day until election day on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Early voting is the best way to get ahead of the line, according to both inspectors.

The days can be long, about 10 hours, and although election officials are paid, helping voters during an election year has its own rewards for the couple.

“We love it,” Margie Miramontes said, with Larry adding “I think part of it is also we enjoy the voters. The voters that come in to this vote center in particular are here because they want to be here and they want to vote, and that’s always good to see.”

Those voters often develop a sense of community, despite differing political opinions, Larry Miramontes said.

“They develop a lot like a line at a rock concert,” Larry Miramontes said. “Everybody’s like talking and friendly and it’s very interesting the dynamic that you see in the line, because they’re all here to vote. They don’t necessarily care how they’re going to vote, but they’re just all there for the same purpose and they develop a camaraderie in line.”

Despite the reported polarization of public opinion, Margie Miramontes says she sees people with common ground at the voting center.

“The voters that we see coming through the doors are happy to be here and happy for the privilege. We see it every election,” she said.

Among those showing up at the voting center are those voting for the first time. Some of them have just turned 18 while others became citizens after immigrating to the United States.

“We have a number of naturalized citizens in this area who come in and vote for the first time, and they just glow and gleam,” Margie Miramontes said. “They’re so happy to be able to vote. And that just makes you come back over and over and over again.”

Political signage is not allowed at voting centers, but inspectors are allowed to hang patriotic-themed decor, if they choose. The Miramontes’ vote center is “by far, the most patriotic” location in the county, according to Janna Haynes, public information manager for Sacramento County’s Elections Department.

“The election inspector couple that runs that location has been doing it for years,” Haynes told The Sentinel in an interview last year, calling the couple “crazy dedicated.”

“They know everything and they take a personal interest in decorating, greeting voters, making their voter experience as seamless as possible, getting people in-and-out, providing as much help as possible,” said Haynes. “They’re phenomenal.”

The Miramontes say their goal is to create an atmosphere where voters feel welcome.

“The tone [is] set when somebody walks into this room,” Larry Miramontes said. “So we want them coming in here and looking around and, you know, this feels like this looks right. I’m here to vote and this is all about voting.”

Margie Miramontes said people wearing clothing with a political message will be asked to change before coming within 100 feet of the center. Political discussion is also not allowed, but Larry Miramontes said some people will make parting comments on their way out of the voting booth.

There have been some memorable moments over the years, with Larry Miramontes remembering working at a church where the pastor had food brought in for all the voters. Another year, the City of Citrus Heights brought in pizza after a busy day at the vote center that did not give staff an opportunity to take a break.

Voters who need assistance can take advantage of curbside voting, Margie Miramontes said. New technology also allows voters to use touchscreens that can change contrast and are compatible with “Sip-and-Puff” devices that enable people to interface with various electronic systems via a straw or tube manipulated by the mouth or cheek.

Also on The Sentinel: 2022 Election: Want to vote in person? Here’s the 5 locations in Citrus Heights

Margie Miramontes recalled one voter who fainted while standing in line during the day. She said the man’s wife took him to the hospital but he returned to the vote center upon his release.

“When I saw him, I was like, What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in the hospital,” she recalled. “And he says, ‘They released me, I want to vote.”

“It just made my day,” said Margie Miramontes.

While some voters are motivated by one particular issue or candidate, Larry Miramontes said others just appreciate the opportunity to have a voice.

“The veterans will come in because they fought for this process, or they served for this process, or whatever it is — and they are bound and determined that they’re going to participate,” said Larry Miramontes, who is also an Air Force veteran. “Others are naturalized citizens [and] feel privileged to be able to vote. A lot of U.S. citizens take that for granted that we have this privilege.”

Anyone looking to be involved in the election process can contact the Voter Registration Office in Sacramento County and fill out an online application.

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