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Electoral Board Welcomes Price

Their reasons are different for joining the Loudoun County Electoral Board, but their reason for wanting to stay is the same.

"I like being on the inside. You know what's going on. You understand the election process," said Dianna Price, who began her appointment as the board's secretary on March 1.

To say the least, Price, along with Karen Pearson, chair, and Til Bennie, vice-chair, vote at every election and encourage others to do the same. Pearson, previous vice-chair, moved up to chair this year and Til Bennie joined the board after Betsy Mayr, Republican candidate, stepped down to leave two Democrats on the board under a Democratic governor, which are Price and Bennie.

Price grew up in a politically active family in Tennessee. Every Sunday, her Republican grandfather and Democratic father talked politics. "With those two people, you grow up thinking, you're supposed to vote, you're supposed to put signs in your yard, you're supposed to tell politicians what you think," she said.

After helping operate a log export company and working in mediations and arbitrations, Price entered into a political career and served as an election officer in Maryland from 1993-94.

In 1994, she moved to the Cascades area on Election Day, since she could not change her closing date. When she registered to vote, she asked Mayr, secretary at the time, if she needed help working at the polls. "She was more than happy to sign me up as an election officer on the spot," she said.

IN 1999, Price was appointed chair of the board after she received a nomination from Planning Commissioner David Whitmore (Broad Run), Democratic Party chair at the time and tasked with making the recommendation to the circuit court judges.

Four years later, Price nominated Bennie to the vice-chair seat. Bennie had served as an election officer for one to two years, then as assistant chief for another three years, working in the absentee precinct housed in the General Registrar's office in Leesburg.

"She already knew what went on in an election," Price said. "The absentee precinct is the most confusing. It's the hardest precinct to fathom. All the different precincts come here."

"Til makes everybody do what they're supposed to do. She makes sure it's right. She's very politically correct," Price said. "We needed somebody that would remind us, 'This is the right thing to do.'"

Bennie decided she wanted to be part of the election process. "This was the next natural step," she said.

Bennie, who lives in Lovettsville, served as an election officer for 35 years in New York City, Arlington and Fairfax County. In the mid-1960s, the Pennsylvania native earned two master's degrees in psychology and fine arts, then provided child and teen counseling in St. Vincent's Hospital in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. She worked for a non-profit fund-raising organization for awhile, then spent 20 years working full-time as a freelance fund-raiser. She managed the Loudoun Museum gift shop for five years until late 2002 and is back to freelancing again.

"This is a big circle," Bennie said about starting out politically active, then becoming an election officer and now serving on the Electoral Board.

"COMING IN THIS YEAR is a bad year," Price said, mentioning the number of state and local offices on the ballot and the recent federal decisions about election equipment. "This year will be a wild election. We have so many people interested in running."

Price selected Bennie for her background in organization, while Price was selected for her mediation background. Pearson's background with numbers gave her a place on the board, where she has served for the past six years.

Pearson grew up in part in New York, where she attended college to earn a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1975. She planned on teaching high school mathematics but instead a year later moved to the Washington, D.C. area to work for the Civil Service Commission. She transferred to the Naval Supply Systems Command and spent 16 years as a management analyst for the Navy until 1992, when she taught at private schools for two years. In 1994, she became a stay-at-home mom and now home schools her two sons.

"I love the different aspects of the position, meeting lots of people, driving around on Election Day and working with the numbers," said Pearson, who has lived in Countryside since 1982. "I'm the number cruncher of the team. ... I want to make sure everything is right before it leaves here."

THE BOARD MEMBERS "gravitate" toward their own specialties, Pearson said. "I'm the numbers person. Dianna is the people person," she said.

"I haven't found my slot yet," Bennie said.

The Electoral Board organizes elections from the time candidates file to run for local and state offices to Election Day.

As the board chairman, Pearson is tasked with presiding over monthly board meetings and training sessions for election officers, who are trained in a two-hour session and work on Election Day. She prepares the election materials, checks the precincts on Election Day, and packs and counts ballots.

Price's duties as secretary include re-appointing election officers, answering questions on voting issues and answering candidates' questions. She orders the ballots, prepares abstracts for the State Board and notifies candidates to file their Campaign Finance Forms.

"My goal is to create a board that provides an environment that promotes good will among all the different parties. This in turn insures that the election process is ran in a fair and ethical manner," Price said.

Bennie said, "I think it's important everyone has their voted counted properly and that it's fair."

Bennie and Pearson are paid a salary of $3,250. Price's salary is $34,000. Price and Steven Price, a local lawyer and president of Dodona Manor, married in 2001. Price has three daughters and a son.