After quite a scare over the expected exit of poll workers this year, the Guilford County Board of Elections is now confident that it has enough help to carry out the 2020 election.
However, some counties across the state are struggling to fill their positions in light of the fear over the coronavirus pandemic.
As many voters may have realized, those who work the polls are often older retired people who are looking for some part-time work and hoping to contribute their time to a civic cause – but many in that group are also at a high risk for problems from COVID-19, so some are choosing not to participate this time around.
The NC State Board of Elections has been running ads on Facebook and other places encouraging people across the state to apply to fill those jobs.
Earlier this year, Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said repeatedly that he was concerned about having enough poll workers, but now, he said, he feels fine about Guilford County’s positioning for the November election that’s really already begun.
Collicutt said there were plenty of worries in this regard earlier, but now it looks like it won’t be a problem in this county.
“I am doing OK,” he said this week, adding that the county had seen some “attrition,” but “not the attrition we all feared.”
“We’re going to be OK with the base of officials we already had, plus we’ve had a ton of folks sign up to work,” he said.
Election officials operate the polls during early voting and on Election Day by providing services like setting up the voting machines, checking voters in and helping any voters who have special needs. They also help secure the voting site once the voting is done.
Normally, anyone working the polls has to be a registered voter who resides in the precinct where they wish to serve. However, the State Board of Elections announced that in 2020 only, “due to the need to attract more election workers, some workers may work out of their home precinct.”
In some places, poll workers are volunteers but in Guilford County poll workers are all paid for their service.
“We don’t do volunteers,” Collicutt said of Guilford County election workers.
He said that if one finds volunteers hanging around the polls at election time they’re working for parties, candidates or “watchdog groups.”
The state elections board’s ad campaign is meant to encourage people to be poll workers due to the shortage.
“North Carolina election officials are searching for democracy heroes to work at polling places and voting sites for the November 2020 general election,” one ad states. “These local heroes will protect democracy, learn about the elections process, serve their communities and receive payment for their dedication to elections.”
To serve as an election worker on Election Day, you have to be a registered voter. However, interestingly, that doesn’t apply to those working early voting polling sites.
Precinct officials can’t be a candidate or relative of a candidate in the election. They also can’t be an elected government official, hold office with any political party or be a manager or treasurer for a candidate or political party. They also can’t serve at the same polling place as a spouse, child, spouse of a child, sister or brother.