OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Election workers are crucial part of the voting process. From welcoming voters to the polls, to helping them cast their ballot, it's a job that often doesn't get the thanks it deserves.
But now, an elections coordinator in Ottawa County is being recognized for her work to make sure the voting process is more accessible and transparent.
"We want the process of the voters (for) everyone's voice to be able to be heard," Katie Sims, recipient of the Excellence in Equity award from the Ottawa County Diversity Forum, says. "I'm honored to receive such an award. I'm surrounded by a great team that helps do that work."
She says she's passionate about inmates' right to vote, forging a partnership between the clerk's office and sheriff's office to make sure they can have their absentee ballots.
"For me really, it's a personal thing. I grew up in a Christian household where we did prison ministry, which can't say a lot of people do that," Sims says. "But we took trips around the country to different prisons, and really worked through a program to connect parents with their kids while they were in prison. So I wanted to bring that same passion into the voting world."
She also worked hard to secure and publicize the county's accessible voting machines for people of all abilities.
"We've really talked a lot about our touch writer device. That's our system device that has quite a few different features. For voters visually impaired, they can listen to the ballot, it can be read to them. You can change the screen size, the text size. So the voter has difficulty reading the size of the text of the ballot, they can use that device as well," Sims says.
She's helped voters with resources in a different language as well.
"I'm a native Spanish speaker, so I help native Spanish speakers get the information that they need in a language that's comfortable for them," Sims says.
"When you think about it, fundamentally, elections is about fairness. It's about accuracy. It's about making sure that every voice is heard. And that is the work that Katie does on a daily basis," Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck says.
He says election workers are vital to make sure the entire process runs smoothly.
"They know that we have their back, that law enforcement has their back, and that our voters and election workers feel safe, and that's very important to us," Roebuck says.
"I think at the end of the day, we also need to remind ourselves that election workers are there, they're members from your community, and they want to do the right thing," Sims says.
She has been with the Ottawa County Clerk's office for six years, starting as an elections intern in 2016 and later becoming a full time worker with the office as a Clerk-Register of Deeds Specialist. In 2021, Katie was promoted to Elections Coordinator.
She received the award out of 20 nominees.