Story by Kat Skeldon, MetroNews
WEST VIRGINIA — At least two counties are voicing the need for more poll workers to man the voting precincts during the state’s upcoming May 14th Primary Elections.
The County Clerk in Fayette County, Michelle Holly, said while it’s still too early to establish a complete forecast of the overall number of poll workers they have for this Primary Election, she said they are about two-thirds of the way there so far in getting enough of them.
However, she said they will have a better understanding of where they are at in the county regarding the number of poll workers as it gets closer to election time.
“Like I said, we’re pretty early on in the process, but we will start getting lists from our executive committees here in about a month, that should help round out those numbers,” she said.
Holly said the county has 40 precincts altogether, calling for a little over 200 poll workers to fill them.
In an earlier interview, Secretary of State Mac Warner said the state saw a decline in poll workers throughout the most recent years following the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, there are approximately 1,680 precincts in West Virginia that require at least five poll workers, creating a need for a total of 8,400 poll workers in the state altogether.
Holly said despite the incentives which the state is required to pay poll workers, she knows it can be a big commitment for many.
“I mean, it’s a very long day and a lot of people can’t commit to that kind of time, but yeah, we are always looking for people who want to work, and it’s a really important part of our election process,” she said.
She said in Fayette County, poll workers are paid $50 for a training class and $175 the day of elections, totaling $225 altogether.
Holly said while all elections are important, this one is particularly crucial, which is why having enough poll workers is a must.
“Without our election officials, without our poll workers, we can’t run an election, so we really need people for that,” said Holly.
Holly said they try to position poll workers at the closest precinct in relation to where they live.
In Putnam County, County Clerk Brian Wood said he too is waiting for the lists from executive committees to gage the number of poll workers they will have for this Primary. He said those lists will be due by the end of the month, and once they are submitted and looked over, the county clerk’s office will then fill in any gaps necessary to get the job done.
Wood said so far they are still executing the recruitment process for poll workers.
“We are currently advertising on Facebook, things like that, just to get the word out, get people thinking about it, and help these executive committees fill those positions,” he said.
Wood said poll worker numbers always tends to fluctuate during the time leading up to the election as various life events seem to come up, which hinders people from their commitment to the job.
However, he said they try to emphasize the importance of the commitment the best they can to people.
“You know, we try to tell them to be as consistent as possible, if you’re going to sign up please do the work,” said Wood.
Wood said they have actually boosted the pay for poll workers in Putnam County in an attempt to offset that deterrent. He said poll workers there now get paid $75 for the training class and $175 the day of for a total of $250, but he said you must work on election day to receive the pay for the training.
He said with the pay increase and the fact that it’s a bigger election, Wood hopes the county can acquire plenty who are willing to work it.
“I encourage everybody who wants to and who is willing to do it to go ahead and sign up,” Wood said. “We will more than likely place you in a precinct so you don’t have to wait until Election Day, if you’re an alternate or something like that, and then that way we will have extra hands on deck if necessary to you know, do the work for the voters.”
Wood said they also try to place poll workers as close as possible to where they live.
He encourages all who have the time to be a poll worker to do so as it’s a good experience.
“It all starts with our elections, and so they feel like they have done their civic duty in helping,” Wood said.
For those interested in being a poll worker in Putnam County, Wood said to call the county clerk’s office at (304)-586-0202 and select Option 2 for the election division.
For Fayette County, interested poll workers can call (304)-574-4235.
If you’re looking to be a poll worker in another county, you can visit govotewv.com, state that you would like to be a poll worker, and the Secretary of State’s Office will send your information to the correct county.
Poll workers are expected to arrive for the job on Election Day on Tuesday, May 14 at 5:45 a.m. The polling places will be open to voters that day between 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.