The driveway to Janet and Ervin Young’s house a few miles outside of Dover in central Oklahoma is framed with a large black iron gate, an American flag, a few yellow flowers and a “VOTE HERE” sign.
A slow stream of trucks and SUVs turned off of East 730 Road and trickled through the Young’s gate and up the long driveway Tuesday morning, headed for one of four voting booths situated on the dining room table.
The Young’s house serves a vital public service as one of 12 polling places spread across 906 square miles of mostly rural Kingfisher County. The Kingfisher County Election Board secretary estimated about 85 people would cast their ballots at the Young’s house on Election Day.
Oklahoma has three residential polling places across the state, all in rural areas. County election officials said recruiting polling locations in those areas is difficult, since they are mostly residential without many churches or businesses. Without individuals who are willing to open their homes, voters would have to drive to other towns.
“That’s hard on a lot of the elderly having to drive to the next town,” said Brandy Sue Davis, the election secretary in Hughes County, which hosts a residential polling site. The other residential site is in Pittsburg County.
Hughes County, southeast of Oklahoma City, has had a residential polling site for several years. On one previous Election Day, the homeowner had COVID-19, so poll workers had to move voting booths outside and set up canopies and heaters, Davis said.
The sites are subject to the same rules and regulations as other polling places, including having the required number of poll workers and displaying information for voters.
All of the usual polling-place fixtures were at the Young’s home: Two poll workers were set up at a white folding table next to the ballot box just inside the front door with paper ballots and pens. A voter information guide was taped on a wooden hutch. A sample ballot hung on a deer-shaped wall decoration in the corner. An electronic photo frame flipped through pictures of the Young’s loved ones next to a stack of “I voted” stickers.
“Thank you for coming,” one poll worker told a voter. “Thank you for having it here,” they replied.
The Youngs have been hosting voters at their home for several years. They declined an interview request.
Their white house with red-trimmed windows is hidden from the road behind a thick line of trees. Grain silos and farm equipment are scattered across the back half of their large property. Voters walked up a few stairs to the front door, passing by flower beds with metalwork sunflowers and pumpkins poking out of the ground. Voting flyers were taped to the front door. Over the years, voting booths have been set up on the back porch and front living room.
The Youngs serve as the only polling place for about 20 miles of mostly unincorporated area between the towns Dover and Crescent. Dover has just about 400 residents. Kingfisher County has about 15,000, according to U.S. Census data.
A business that sells sand sits next door to the Young’s house. A few oil derricks dot the side of the road near their property. A flock of turkeys puttered around near the tree line in a field across the street.
Most voters were quick to pull back onto the road after casting their ballots, but some stopped and said they enjoy voting at the Young’s home, which they described as quick and convenient. One voter said she feels “cozy” every time she votes.
Brett Horn has lived in the area his entire life, only ever voting at a residential polling site. He said people used to vote at another home a few miles away before the Young’s took over the responsibility. The experience builds familiarity and community, Horn said, since he sees the same people every year.
“I appreciate that there are people who volunteer to do stuff like this or else it would be much more inconvenient,” Horn said.