Need for poll workers in Wake County shifts with sharp increase in early voting

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – At the start of the election season, there was concern among election officials that there would be a shortage of poll workers this time around. That’s because poll workers are typically older citizens who are vulnerable to COVID-19.

That’s now changed and Wake County is seeing a surge of poll workers.

A record number 1,200 workers are helping with early voting seven days a week.

“If I wasn’t wearing my glasses, you could see the bags under my eyes right now,” said Gary Sims with the Wake County Board of Elections.

The avalanche of early votes has resulted in massive undertaking for poll workers processing those ballots.

“It’s a completely manual process. We do it in teams, double checking, triple checking,” said Sims.

On Election Day, there will be 800 poll workers in Durham County with a few hundred more on reserve. Cumberland County reported 780 poll workers set for Election Day.

In Wake County, there are 2,600 with another few hundred on reserve, according to Sims. He said they brought on about 300 more workers than they typically need to keep polling places sanitized and to manage social distancing.

“We were amazed. We’re a point right now it’s sad when you have to tell people, ‘We’re in good shape. We’re fully staffed’,” said Sims.

The volume of early voting means they may even be overstaffed on Election Day.

“At the rate we’re going with early voting, I don’t know how many election day voters we’re going to have,” said Sims.

Sims says they’re taking steps to keep workers protected with well-fitted masks, face shields, protective eye wear, and protective barriers.

Voter Guide

Registration deadlines:

  • Online: Oct. 9
  • By mail: Postmarked by Oct. 9
  • In person: Oct. 9

Absentee ballot deadlines

  • Request: Received by Oct. 27
  • Return by mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3 and received no later than Nov. 12 by 5 p.m.
  • Return in person: Nov. 3 by 5 p.m.

Early voting/Same day registration

  • Oct. 15 – Oct. 31
  • Click here for more information on this process

Prior estimated shortages across the state

MIT and Democracy Works estimated the need for poll workers across it country. In all, the groups estimated there would be a shortage of more than 281,000 poll workers.

In the Triangle area, their estimates showed a shortage in every county. It estimated the biggest shortage would be in Wake County with shortage of more than 350 election workers. It estimated Lee County was have the smallest gap with a shortage of just 18.

To put together the estimates, 2018 data from Democracy Works and data from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) were pulled together. The average number of poll workers was calculated for each state, and it is used to estimate the needed number of poll workers by multiplying this statewide average by the number of in-person polling places in each jurisdiction.

Below is that report’s estimated shortages for each county in CBS 17’s viewing.

View the election worker needs spreadsheet in full here.

CountyAvg. workers per siteWorker shortage

Sign up to be a poll worker

More information on signing up in other counties through the North Carolina State Board of Elections can be found here.

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