RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – If you are a county elections chief in North Carolina and coming up on mail voting deadlines and a week from final vote counting in a wild election season, you probably don’t expect to get a pep talk from a major celebrity.
But that’s what happened in North Carolina on Monday morning when the conference call of elections officials from 100 counties was visited by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
You know Schwarzenegger, 75, primarily through his 42 acting credits in action and comedic roles, including his “I’ll be back” role in the “Terminator” series.
You may even know that he was a world-champion bodybuilder and fitness advocate from his birth in Austria, whose first acting roles were based on that subject.
But Schwarzenegger, a Republican, also served as the 38th governor of California (2003-2011), where he also became a champion of voting rights.
On Monday he told the state elections workers in the meeting that “there is no job that is more important right now, this next week, than your job.”
Schwarzenegger appeared to be sitting in his breakfast area as he spoke live for about 8 minutes to the 100 or so people on the call. He spoke about how he was interrupting his morning routine of feeding his dogs and horses and, yes, cycling to the gym to pump some iron, a throwback to his days as Mr. Universe.
“I know poll workers have a tough time this time. People try to intimidate them. People try to threaten them,” Schwarzenegger said in the call. “But nothing should intimidate you because whatever you do, it is such wonderful, wonderful work to make it possible for all of us to vote and to participate in this democracy.”
One of those on the call was Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt.
“That was cool to see – I don’t always love the rah-rah stuff, but this was really cool,” Collicutt told WGHP. “It just nice to hear from somebody that high up the celebrity/political ladder speak to us from the heart, and really understand both the logistical things we do and the challenges we face – both in the volume of work and the outside noise.”
The contact was arranged by Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections,
Brinson Bell said in a release that she had recruited Schwarzenegger through contacts at the University of Southern California’s Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.
In her introduction she said she had been working for some time to make this happen, and she clearly was excited to surprise those who had signed in.
“I wanted to show our election workers how much folks appreciate the work they do to secure our elections and ensure all eligible voters can cast ballots,” Brinson Bell said in a release. “Who could possibly be better to pump us up for November 8? Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger, for providing an unforgettable moment for our team.”
Early, in-person voting started on Oct. 20 and continues until 3 p.m. Saturday in every county. Tuesday is the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail.
More than 1.2 million ballots already have been cast statewide, and a heavier-than-2018 turnout is expected.