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Over 1,000 people in Alachua County step up to help during shortage in election workers

The opportunity gives people the chance to make some extra cash while giving back to the community
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2020 at 10:17 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - If you’re looking for a way to get involved in this year’s election, becoming a poll worker is one way to do it. Despite that incentive, most states have been having a hard time recruiting people to work the polls. The pandemic this year has only made it worse.

After many states saw a shortage of election workers during primary elections, experts feared they would see even more of a shortage when it came to the general election. The shortage was an issue for Alachua County back in March, but not anymore.

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, Kim Barton, said the response to the state and county’s call to action was overwhelming.

“Since March 17, we had over 1,100 people sign up,” she said. “Our community always steps in ... and that’s why I am so happy to live in this community. You have folks who say ‘you have a need? we are going to step in and help'.”

For some election workers, it’s not only a way to make a little extra cash-- up to $280-- but it’s also a way to support the community.

Graham Hall, a Gainesville reporter, said he has always been active in past elections but this is the first time he considered working the polls.

“When you talk about ways that you can give back ... and get paid ... and find jobs that are actually in high demand right now," Hall said, “[this] actually checks all the boxes off, in a sense, for people looking for work. It’s an added incentive for me, certainly.”

Hall said he noticed more than half of the people in his election worker training classes were people his age -- a younger crowd compared to the usual. In the 2018 general election, more than 60% of election workers were over 60 years old, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data from that year’s Election Administration and Voting Survey.

Along with a growing number of election workers, you can expect many precautions this year at polling places. Social distancing, sneeze guards, and masks are strongly encouraged of voters. Masks are required of poll workers.

If you’re still unsure about the in-person voting option, there will be ballot drop-boxes outside early voting locations during early voting hours as well as one open 24/7 outside of the Supervisor of Elections Office. On election day, the election’s office is the only location ballots can be dropped office, the drop-box will close at 7 p.m.

Typically, up to 650 workers are needed to run the election process in Alachua County. Barton said over 700 people are scheduled to work the upcoming election, out of their over 1,000 applications. While the number of workers is no longer an issue, it’s not too late to join.

“We still have to get to November 3rd ... so anything can happen in between that time ... so, I would never say we don’t need any more poll workers. Of course, we always need poll workers ... and there are future elections as well.”

The deadline to register to vote is October 5. Barton reminds Alachua County residents to double-check that they have updated information before going to the polling places -- including addresses and signatures. For more information on the Alachua County voting process, click here.

This article was corrected to reflect the fact that face masks are encouraged not required of voters by the Alachua County Supervisors of Elections Office and that ballot drop-boxes will not be available at early voting locations when closed.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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