In its preparations for Election Day, Nov. 3, the Forsyth County Board of Elections is enlisting election officials — commonly known as poll workers — for a variety of tasks, all to make the process of voting smoother, efficient and accurate. As we write, about 80% of the necessary slots have been filled, but more workers are needed. In fact, the board would prefer to be overstocked, in case of illness or time conflicts, which tend to arise. Poll workers are richly rewarded by facilitating the democratic process that keeps our nation’s wheels rolling.
There’s also a small stipend.
Poll workers are the front-line guards in our elections, the first to arrive and the last to leave, greeting and verifying voters, instructing them on using voting machines and answering questions and concerns before handing out those little stickers. This year they’ll also be tasked with helping keep everyone safe from viral infection.
There’s a special emphasis this year on safety because of the coronavirus. Thousands more than usual are voting by mail-in ballot to avoid the possibility of infection, but the coronavirus is also leading some veteran poll workers to skip out this time to protect their health. That increases the need for poll workers. Without enough workers, long lines can discourage voters from staying the course — especially if it seems dangerous to their health.
“This is your chance to save Granny, protect your democracy and get paid,” comedian Trevor Noah, the host of "The Daily Show," put it earlier this year.
Most adults are eligible to be poll workers. They must be registered voters, residents of Forsyth County and unrelated to candidates for office.
Students at least 17 years old may also work the polls. “It’s a great way for high school students to learn how democracy works,” said Damon Circosta, chairman of the State Board of Elections.
Election board officials are taking safety precautions very seriously. In-person training is conducted with the strictest protocols in place: masking and social distancing. Forsyth County can’t afford for poll workers to get sick and spread the virus.
These safety protocols will also be observed during early voting and on Election Day, with personal protection equipment, safety screens and hand sanitizer supplied to keep workers and voters safe.
Yesterday we wrote about some of the stress local residents are experiencing — some no doubt related to the uncertainty of this election cycle. Working the polls is one way that people can take positive action to alleviate those feelings.
Election Day is now fewer than 50 days away. This seems a particularly consequential election year — and chaotic — and while some have cast doubt on the outcome before it’s even known, the decisions for our future will largely be made Nov. 3, in polling locations throughout the country. We need fair and safe elections to ensure that the will of the people is served. Poll workers are essential to that process.
For more information, go to www.co.forsyth.nc.us/elections/precinct_officials.aspx
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