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COVID threat prompts drive for poll workers

COVID-19’s impacts are far-reaching, and the 2020 General Election is not immune.

In Beaufort County, many of those who’ve worked at poll sites for the Beaufort County Board of Elections during past elections have indicated they will not be returning to work during this year’s election.

“Over 90% of our poll workers are over the age of 60. So we’ve done some calling around, and it’s looking anywhere from 25 to 30% of poll workers are telling us that they’re not going work this year,” said Kellie Hopkins, director of Beaufort County Board of Elections. “It’s not that they don’t want to work, it’s just that with the COVID issue at hand, they have decided that they shouldn’t.”

Hopkins appeared before the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners during the September meeting, with a request that other counties’ boards of elections, in a creative bid to find more poll workers, are also making: allowing county employees to take a day of vacation to work for the BOE for the day, at the contracted price set by the county BOE, which ranges from a minimum of $150 to $225 per day. The day would begin at 6 a.m., half an hour before polls open, and end at approximately 9 p.m., after polls close at 7:30 p.m.

Traditionally, poll workers are recommended to the BOE by local political parties; in this case, if a county employee expresses interest in taking the BOE up on its offer, the BOE would send that person’s name to their chosen party for approval.

Hopkins also said the county sites are prepared for host in-person voting during a pandemic: “In regards to COVID, the state has done a really great job of acquiring PPE for our office. It looks like we’re going to get 24,000 masks, which is 70% turnout, 2,750 pairs of gloves, 350 face shields for our precinct officials, 462 disinfectant sprays, 200 tubs of disinfectant wipes and 60 gallons of hand sanitizer.”

Commissioners approved the request unanimously to allow county employees to take a vacation day to contract with the BOE as poll workers.