WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Lost polling places and replacing poll workers is part of the changes facing Palm Beach County's elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said poll workers are needed for both the primary on Aug. 18 and the general election on Nov. 3.
"The virus does make things uncertain because it's one thing we don't have control over," Sartory Link said.
It takes 4,000 poll workers to staff more than 400 Election Day polling locations and phone banks, according to Palm Beach County elections officials.
"We are hoping to keep as many locations open as possible. We have replacement sites for most of the polling locations that have pulled out, but we need poll workers to staff those and others," Sartory Link said.
The supervisor of elections said Wednesday that about a dozen polling places in private buildings are no longer available over concerns about the virus.
"Which forces us to relocate them to a new location or combine them if it's a small location somewhere else," Sartory Link said.
The elections office said the more locations they can keep open, the fewer lines and wait times voters will have on Election Day.
"We have PPE and are instituting many safeguards to protect our poll workers and voters," Sartory Link said.
Many people who typically work at the polls are in the age group who are most vulnerable to coronavirus, which has prompted the demand for workers.
The elections office is now also recruiting younger poll workers after last March's primary when more than 1,500 poll workers failed to show up as the viral outbreak started.
"The school district is sending out an email to all juniors and seniors in high school because if you're pre-registered or registered to vote, you can be a poll worker," said Sartory Link. "Those students tend to be very tech-savvy, and they need hours and money."
So far, about 200 students have indicated they will train to be poll workers. The supervisor of elections said her office already has 4,300 committed poll workers.
"We need Democrats, Republicans, NPAs, new voters, and old voters … Help everyone exercise their right to vote," said Sartory Link.
The elections office said their goal is to train more poll workers than they need in an effort to prepare for any unforeseen circumstances.
All poll worker jobs are paid positions.
If you are interested in working the polls, visit our website at www.pbcelections.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Palm Beach County Elections Office at 561-656-6200 and ask to speak with the Poll Worker Department.
As of Monday, 18 early-voting polling locations have been confirmed in Palm Beach County.
The cities of Delray Beach and Greenacres are offering two more locations to provide voters more opportunities to cast their ballot.
Early voting for the Aug. 18 election will be held from Aug. 3 through Aug. 16. Polls will be open each day from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
The county is still urging the public to vote by mail, but ballots must be requested by Aug. 8 for the primary election next month. Sartory Link said voting by mail would ease the pressure on poll workers.
There have been more than 280,000 requests for mail-in ballots for the August and November elections.