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Republicans looking for poll workers

It’s been a tough year for the recruitment of poll workers,party officials said.

Chuck Nelms, Lincoln County Republican executive committeechairman, said he is still short of poll workers in 14 of thecounty’s 32 precincts for the Aug. 7 primary. Each party staffs itsprecincts with three or more people, depending on the size of thebox.

“We’re short in at least one precinct in each district,” hesaid. “You don’t have to be a voter in the precinct you work, butyou do have to be a registered voter.”

Nelms, who has been party chairman for 23 years, said theshortage has been caused mainly by aging poll workers, many of whomwere working in the precincts when he became chairman.

He called the aging problem a statewide malady.

“Most of them were retired then and they’re a little reluctantnow,” he said. “The poll workers have been very conscientious anddedicated, but the long hours have been getting to them.”

A 13-hour day on an aging body takes its toll, Nelms said, andthe pay is not enough for many to offset the discomfort.

Box managers earn $90 for the day while clerks and bailiffs arepaid $70. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m., accordingto Circuit Clerk Terry Lynn Watkins.

It is common for poll workers to be retired, Nelms said, becausethey have the time and ability to rearrange their schedules to workin the precincts.

“Younger people are normally at work, in college or in themilitary and can’t control their schedules,” he said.

Also, training for the new voting machines is extensive andconfusing to some poll workers, he said.

He said Watkins had made substantive efforts to train pollworkers during the transition, but that some poll workers did notfeel comfortable with the machines.

Helen Funk, Lincoln County Democratic executive committeechairman, said her precinct managers have encountered only a fewdifficulties in meeting their needs.

Funk said her difficulties were different than those of theRepublican Party. Her main complication was that many of theexperienced poll workers can’t participate this year because of arelationship with a candidate.

Additionally, last year’s primary was held in June.

The primary introduced the new voting machines and those pollworkers received extensive training on the machines. However, manyof the poll workers were teachers who had been released for thesummer and had the time to serve in the precincts.

This year, the primary is being held the day after school startsfor many school districts and those teachers are unavailable.

“It was a struggle to get them this year,” she said.

Despite the difficulties, Democratic precinct managers turned intheir poll worker lists Thursday night and reported they had themajority of workers they needed, Funk said.

Training for Democratic poll workers will begin Tuesday with twoclasses a day for three days. There will also be two eveningclasses next week for training on the voting machines, shesaid.

Republican poll worker training will be conducted in thegovernment complex Aug. 2 at 5:30 p.m.

Nelms was complimentary of past efforts by poll workers in bothparties.

“There has been very little controversy in Lincoln Countyelections over the years,” he said.

Those interested in becoming Republican poll workers are urgedto call Nelms at (601) 624-6404.

Working in the precinct for the primary does not obligate themto work in the general election on Nov. 7, Nelms said. While partyofficials staff the precincts during the primaries, it is the dutyof the county’s election commissioners to select poll workers fromboth parties to staff precincts in the general election.