Chatham County Board of Elections Director Pandora Paschal had a hand in Chatham County earning the state’s highest voter turnout in 2020
By Elizabeth Poindexter | Photography by John Michael Simpson
On Pandora Paschal’s first day on the job at Chatham County Board of Elections, her boss handed her a hefty law book to read. “I thought, ‘Oh, no, what have I done?'” she says.
Following a 12-year banking career in Goldston, Pandora joined the county board of elections in 2004. By 2017, she became its director, managing everything from municipal and presidential elections to curbside voting and navigating COVID-19 restrictions.
The Sandhills Community College alumna works year-round to implement new policies, to represent Chatham County at the state level and to prepare for the upcoming electoral season. In recent decades, she has worked to demystify the electoral process by making information more accessible and educational about how elections work.
“We matter,” she says. “Elections matter. This is where democracy starts.”
Pandora says transparency is more important than ever these days, even livestreaming meetings to the public during the height of the pandemic.
“Once you work in elections, you either love it or hate it,” she says. “I love it. It’s very fulfilling to help people vote and be able to vote in fair and impartial elections.” Pandora channels her love of elections into energizing her team of three full-time employees on Thompson Street. The number of temporary staff and site managers can swell to more than 200, depending on the proximity to an election.
In 2019, Pandora received West Chatham NAACP’s Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Citizenship in recognition for her exemplary civil service. She is accustomed to high achievements. She is a former Chatham Central High School varsity girls basketball player and was a key team player in winning the state 2A championship in 1978. The following year, she was chosen as an outstanding senior and homecoming queen.
The two-time breast cancer survivor lives in Goldston with her husband of more than 30 years, Jerry Paschal, and has a daughter, Faith, 19, who was born following her first experience with cancer. “It made me realize how important each day was,” she says. “Even if it’s a cloudy day, you’re still OK because you get to see that day.”
Pandora strives to do her best each day, for each person, and leads by example.
“I tell my employees it’s about going over and beyond,” she says. “I know how I want to be treated when I go places. … That makes people want to come back.”
During the 2016 presidential election, Pandora remembers assisting a first-time voter, who was unable to read. Under a process set forth by the U.S. House of Representatives, Pandora was able to help, and the woman was thrilled to cast her ballot and receive an ‘I voted’ sticker. “She was so excited,” Pandora recalls. “I thought, ‘This is why I do this.’”
During the 2020 general election, Chatham County had 84% of voters turn out – the highest in the state. “I think it speaks volumes to people trusting the process,” she says. “In every election, every vote counts.”