Board to add poll positions

Published 9:27 pm Friday, September 21, 2012

Expecting a record voter turnout for the Nov. 6 general election, Beaufort County’s Board of Elections will add at least one additional precinct official to each of the county’s 21 precincts.
Elections Director Kellie Harris Hopkins believes turnout for the general election, which includes the U.S. presidential race, could be higher than the 73 percent turnout recorded in the county for the 2008 general election.
“We’re going to be making contact with our current poll workers to be sure they’re going to be able to work. Plus, we’re going to add additional positions at each precinct because of the expected turnout,” Hopkins said Friday.
The names of recommended precinct officials are presented to the board by the Beaufort County Republican and Democratic parties, she said, but the board has the final say when appointing precinct officials for each precinct. Those officials include a chief judge, two judges and two assistants. This election, the board plans on adding an election technician at each precinct. Each precinct’s election technician would be in charge of that precinct’s electronic poll book, a laptop computer.
“They are going to be exclusively trained in the software that’s being used with the electronic poll books,” Hopkins said.
Where chief judges and judges would handle voter challenges and similar events such as jurisdictional disputes, election technicians would only be concerned with operation and security of the electronic poll books, Hopkins said.
The problem the local political parties are having is they have few people to recruit precinct officials.
“What they’re running into is we’re looking at 21 precincts with at least five (precinct officials) in it. This time, we’re looking at six,” Hopkins said. “We’re looking at a minimum of 126 people. When you have two people that are working for the parties and they have to find a third or two-thirds of these folks to work, they’re having a hard time coming up with people who are able to do it. It’s an awful long day, from 6 o’clock in the morning until we’re done, which is probably going to be 9 (p.m.) or 10 (p.m.) this year. It’s a struggle a lot of time to fill those positions with people they want in those positions.”
Hopkins said people who file applications to serve as precinct officials provide the parties a pool from which to draw potential precinct officials.
“We’re trying to help them build a talent pool to give them names of people who are willing to work and want to work and were not two days before the election scrambling to find precinct officials,” she said.
Precinct officials do get paid.
A chief judge makes $225 an election. Assistant judges get paid $175 an election, with precinct assistants making $150 an elections. An election technician will be paid $225 an election. Election technicians undergo training regarding the electronic poll books. The other officials undergo two to three hours of training a week before an election, with several training sessions available.
For information about the duties of each precinct official and to view an on-line application to work as a precinct official, visit the board’s website at, then click on the “Precinct officials” tab for information about precinct officials and to access the on-line application. Anyone interested in working as a precinct official may visit the website or call the board’s office at 946-2321 to have an application mailed to them.
Telephone messages left for Charles Hickman, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, and Surry Everett, chairman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, were not returned by deadline for this article.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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