If you think you have a hard job, just be glad you don’t work for the Guilford County Board of Elections Department in 2020, which is currently facing an impressive number of challenges due to last minute changes in North Carolina election law, countless procedural precautions due to the pandemic, a coming election that will no doubt see a large turnout, and a great deal of uncertainty as to how many people will vote by mail.
When the cost of new election machines, ballots, required staff training, virus related costs, and other factors are added up, 2020 promises to be one of the most expensive elections that Guilford County has ever conducted.
Even though the election is months away, it is already costly in terms of demands on staff having to adjust to the new world order at a time when the physical elections offices are closed to the public.
The job of Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt and his staff will only get tougher as the huge Tuesday, November 3 general election approaches.
Heading into that election, the department has had to switch to an entirely new type of voting machine and has also had to make changes to handle the Guilford County School’s sudden new practice of bussing students to sites to vote. It has also been forced to implement polling place contamination procedures to address COVID-19 and has had to find new polling places for those institutions that, in light of the pandemic, no longer wish to have large groups of people traipsing into their buildings.
An additional challenge for the November election in 2020 is trying to plan for what’s expected to be a very large number of people voting by mail. One added complication is that every section of the county has a different ballot due to local races.
Collicutt said this week that he’s planning to see a whole lot more voting by mail than there’s been in past elections, and he added that one confounding part of the equation is that he simply has no idea how many people will choose that method this year.
“It will cost more – especially since the volume is totally unknown and I have to plan big,” Collicutt said.
The good news for the county’s taxpayers is that part of the bill will be footed by the federal government. At a recent Guilford County Board of Commissioners work session, the board discussed the need to use some of a $94 million in the federal COVID-19 relief package to make the required changes in the upcoming election.