There are not many slow days for the Polk County Elections Office.
A need for a few more poll workers at polling places is just one of the things Elections Director Lee Ann George and her staff are focused on for the Nov. 3 general election.
There is the continued preparation for health and safety measures at the precincts to protect voters and poll workers from COVID-19, the increased push for absentee voting, and a presidential race on the ballot with a possibility of luring a record turnout to top it all off.
“Right now we could use 5 to 7 more poll workers, and the reason we are wanting more is we anticipate the voter turnout for this election to be phenomenal,” George said. “Just so we can make sure things flow smoothly and the staff aren’t overworked in one position, we would like to have people to rotate out, give staff a break during the day, and help with traffic coming in and out of the precincts.”
According to Polk County Elections Coordinator Brande Coggins, the Secretary of State’s office has projected a 60-70% voter turnout statewide for the Nov. 3 election, which roughly translates to anywhere between 14,000-16,000 voters for Polk County.
That would come after the record turnout for August’s Republican runoff election where more than 4,200 votes were cast in Polk County, more than 1,600 more than the previous mark set in the 2018 gubernatorial runoff.
Staffing polls for elections has become an issue in the months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many election day employees statistically are older people who are either retired or self-employed. They are also in the age group that is at the highest risk of developing severe illness if infected with the new coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Polk County’s plan is to have 10-12 poll workers at each polling place, with new poll workers welcomed to apply at the Polk County Elections Office at 144 West Ave. in Cedartown.
Applicants must be a Polk County resident, 16 or older and have two forms of government-issued identification in order to be verified. They also have to be able to attend training, which normally is a minimum of two hours, but will last a total of four to six hours for the Nov. 3 election.
“We do have a lot of new poll workers and we want to make sure they are comfortable with the machinery and the process,” George said.
With the younger minimum age for poll workers, local students are encouraged to become a poll worker.
George said they have worked with the Polk School District to ensure that any student workers would be excused from classes the day of the election and they usually have help from political science students at the Polk County College and Career Academy.
All poll workers are required to be available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on election day, however George said they can work with students if they have after school activities to just work a certain time.
Students who work at the polls receive a letter of recommendation from the Polk County Board of Elections to put in their permanent record for college, jobs or civic groups. All poll workers are paid.
Polk County’s elections office is also preparing for those wishing to cast their ballot early or absentee. In fact, George said they are encouraging it.
The reason is for the safety of the public and the poll workers. With so many voters expected, it could be crowded during the peak parts of election day at some county precincts.
The Secretary of State’s new online absentee portal — ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov — allows registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot online instead of printing out and mailing in an application.
Ballots were scheduled to begin being sent out last week and can be either mailed to the Polk County Elections Office, hand delivered to the office during normal business hours or put into the drop box next to the front door of the Polk County Annex Building, which is under 24-hour surveillance and checked twice a day, Monday through Friday.
George said that her office has coordinated with the post office in Cedartown so that any absentee ballots collected by mail carriers in Cedartown are directly placed in a bin for the carrier that is on the elections office’s route, meaning ballots normally reach the office the next day.
George recommends checking voter registration status and other important information, including the status of an absentee ballot, through the Secretary of State’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.