Augusta, Ga (WJBF)- There is a nationwide shortage of poll workers for the upcoming election because of the pandemic, even here in the CSRA.
Many retirees work the polls on election day, but this year many of them say they aren’t comfortable doing so. This leaves election officials scrambling to find replacements.
Gayla Keesee is the Voter Services Chair for the League of Women Voters CSRA. “We lost poll workers. One, they didn’t want to take their health at risk. They weren’t sure about the protections that would be offered to them. And many of our poll workers that are traditionally poll workers are older. And that’s a health issue, but we also have new machines, and the technology is scary for some people,” she said.
Keesee said we saw the issues a poll worker shortage can cause in June during the Georgia Primary.
“Because of that we also had to close polling locations. And so you saw the really happen in Dekalb County and Fulton County where you had long lines. You had people there until one o”clock in the morning,” she explained.
Micki Carr had her election day scheduled as a precinct manager in Columbia County. She said that the pandemic and no clear safety mandates from the state, had her staying away from her polling location this year.
“My parents live here in the area and I’m taking care of them as best I can. My father has been battling cancer for the last sixteen years. I couldn’t afford to expose myself to COVID and bring it back to him,” she told NewsChannel 6.
Carr said that the decision was not an easy one to make.
“I was really torn because I wanted to do my part. You know, we had these kids working at the grocery store and they were taking the risk every day. And I thought the least I could do was work one day at the precinct,” said Carr.
Both Carr and Keesee said that they would like to see younger poll workers with tech experience step up to do the job. Keesee also said that she is working with local high schools to get students to help.
“The I.B. program has to have service hours. Potentially that could be something they could do. Be a poll worker and gain experience with the civic engagement,” said Keesee.
PhotoJournalist: Gary Hipps.