Georgetown County sees surge in poll workers

This year the training includes the usual election instructions as well as special coronavirus...
This year the training includes the usual election instructions as well as special coronavirus training.(Live 5 News)
Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT
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GEORGETOWN COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Training is underway for more than 230 poll workers in Georgetown County. After a rough June primary plagued by a shortage of poll workers and a reduction of polling locations, county officials are feeling better about November.

“We are in a better position than we were in June. In June, we had a lot of experienced poll workers who chose not to work,” said Dean Smith, chairman of the Georgetown County Board of Registration and Elections. “We have done some recruiting efforts and we are going to have more poll workers. In fact, now we have a waiting list which is always good to have.”

Smith says the primary was an issue because of the coronavirus. Many of the older poll workers chose not to work and at least six voting locations had to be combined because those facilities did not want to open their doors to the potential of coronavirus exposure. The Georgetown NAACP filed a complaint listing at least eight discrepancies in response to that election.

On Tuesday, the county hosted a two-hour training session for poll workers. This year the training includes the usual election instructions as well as special coronavirus training.

“It’s mandated for every election,” Smith said. “This gets done for primaries, for general elections, it gets repeated every time. The state mandates certain aspects of it and we augment it with some local things.”

Efforts to fix past issues may just be housekeeping at this point. Smith says they are expecting an enormous turnout. He points to the fact that more than 400,000 absentee ballots have already been requested in the state.

“There is a great deal of interest in this election,” Smith said. “Even in the primary, we expected 17 or 18 percent turnout and we had 30 percent turnout. So there’s a lot of interest in elections this year.”

Many poll workers find themselves working a precinct year after year. Janet Reown is one such person.

“It’s going to be busy. You have to prepare yourself,” Reown said. “Keep the smile on your face. Let everyone know they are doing what they’re supposed to do and keep it moving for the rest of the day.”

Poll workers in Georgetown County can make around $100 for working the polls on election day, but that is a small incentive for people like Reown.

“My mother had been a poll worker for many, many years so I am just following the trend,” Reown said. “I enjoy doing it. I get to see people and encourage them to do what they need to do.”

Likewise, Smith says he works elections out of passion.

“I feel that service to your country and service to your fellow citizens is very important,” Smith said. “I’ve been doing this for about 15 years.”

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