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Quote Unquote: Not Planning to Vote? This Woman Will Make You Think Again

Makakilo’s Teri Heade (heed-ee) wants everyone to vote. She’s precinct chair at Mauka Lani Elementary School. At 61, she’s been an outspoken, colorful cheerleader for democracy since she got fired up by Geraldine Ferraro’s campaign and hasn’t slowed down much since.


Teri Heade
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

I STARTED OUT as a poll worker, then a voter assistance official. That’s the first person you talk to when you walk in. 


I HAVE THE BEST TEAM of all the Islands. We are the A-team. I promise you, that’s the truth.


IT’S A REALLY GRUELING DAY. It’s exhausting. It’s exciting. The adrenaline keeps pumping all day. Every time we got a first-time voter, we shouted. We would whoop and holler. I’m bringing a cow bell this time.


ONCE YOU’RE BITTEN by the bug, I don’t think you ever get over it. It’s what makes America great. And America is great!


WE WORK REALLY HARD. We were one of the precincts that did not run out of ballots. We counted how many we had left. At 9 a.m. we’d already called for more ballots because of our experience.


IT’S NOT a lot of money. For all the hours, it works out to less than minimum wage. 


IT’S THE BEST part of our democracy. I get chicken-skin just thinking about it.


“It’s really satisfying. Our whole purpose is, you get that ballot issued to you and you vote and it’s counted.”


I LIKE GOING to a voting place. If you vote absentee and over-vote, your vote will be thrown away and not counted.


YOU CAN’T be wearing your T-shirt that says I love Bernie. I know you all love Bernie. You can’t wear an I Love Trump shirt. I can’t accept a box of manapua that says Candidate for Dog Catcher on it.


WE NEED STAFFING, and staffing and staffing.


ONE POLLING PLACE, they ordered pizza and they all got sick. They thought they’d have to shut down. We cut our crew in half so that wouldn’t happen. We worked short-staffed and held both open.


Go to the polling place early. That way, if there’s a problem, there’s time to straighten it out. But everyone in line gets to vote.


I GET MAD when people don’t vote. I won’t shut up about that. They’re letting a handful of people make a decision for them. How can they do that?


THE FUNNIEST THING was when an HPD cop came in, badge, gun, everything, he did not have a picture ID. We asked him some questions and we let him vote.


OUR BALLOTS ARE STAMPED, they’re under our control all day long. Until we lock them back up. When they say rigged election, I want to bitch-slap somebody. Don’t you be telling me that elections can be rigged!




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Honolulu Magazine March 2020
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