Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2020

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Bracing for ‘explosion’ of voter turnout, county seeks more poll workers

Midterm Voting At McDoniel Elementary

Steve Marcus

Poll worker Denise Tribble gets “I Voted” stickers ready during voting at Estes McDoniel Elementary School in Henderson Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Clark County is looking to hire about 900 more poll workers for Election Day, and county commissioners are open to paying them even more.

Poll workers are set to earn $50 during training and $225 to $245 on Election Day, Nov. 3, when the county will operate 125 in-person polling sites. This already reflects a recent raise, from $25 and $150-$175, but Commissioner Lawrence Weekly said at the commission’s Tuesday meeting that he wants to further incentivize applicants — who could be plentiful, with so many people out of work or attending college online because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

Not only do people have the time and need the income, voters need the support if turnout is like it was in the June primary, he suggested.

The primary, which was almost entirely mail-in, drew close to half a million ballots for one of the highest primary turnouts in Nevada history.

“We got a sneak preview during the primary and it’s just my fear that we may see something like that again for the general in November,” Weekly said.

The county elections department had 2,459 poll workers lined up as of Tuesday morning, with more than 1,200 applications pending, said Registrar Joe Gloria. His staff had already processed more than 1,000 applications over the prior week and a half, hiring 700 of those.

Gloria said the county still needs to hire an additional 900 poll workers, but he said he was confident that he would have the staff needed to cover the 125 in-person polling locations and 35 early voting sites.

Gloria said all of Clark County’s 1.2 million registered voters are getting a mail-in ballot, which he encouraged over in-person voting. He said he expected mail-in ballots to account for 40% to 50% of all votes cast this fall, if not more.

But Craig Knight, general manager of KCEP 88.1-FM, said he expects an “explosion” in voter turnout for the high-stakes presidential election, and he doesn’t want the county to be caught off-guard.

Knight said he is using his community connections at the radio station to encourage voters to directly drop off their mail-in ballots at the county elections office. But for those voters who do cast ballots in person, the stipends for the poll workers need to be attractive enough to young people.

Knight said seniors in his family have to sit out working the polls this year because of their susceptibility to COVID-19, and they’re anxious that there won’t be enough people to take the place of the retirees like them who make up a large portion of Election Day crews. That makes them fear not having enough sites if there isn’t the manpower to staff them, Knight said.

“Also, it would relieve our seniors knowing it’s being taken care of,” he said.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom agreed that the county should forge ahead on increasing the stipends, which would be covered by federal pandemic relief funds.

“If we can raise it to $100 for training and three (hundred dollars) or $350 for the day at this point that would make me feel a lot better about how many we’re going to end up having by November,” he said. “It’s the most important election of our lifetime, and if we had too many people that would not be a problem.”

The item will return to a future commission agenda for further potential action.