Extra recruiting efforts used to keep Tampa Bay area polling places staffed on Election Day

Posted at 6:50 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 18:50:23-04

With a record number of early voters, there’s a major push underway to make sure your polling location is staffed. While most Tampa Bay area counties have plenty of poll workers, one county has actually seen a drop in the number of volunteers.

Poll workers are key to making sure things go smoothly when you cast your ballot. They do everything from checking in voters to tabulating ballots.

“Get up before the crack of dawn, work hard all day into the night, all because they believe in our democracy,” said Lori Edwards, Polk County Supervisor of Elections.

In previous elections, officials often relied on older volunteers, but this election many aren’t serving because they’re worried about contracting COVID-19. In Hernando County, the supervisor of elections tells me they’ve had to combine three precincts.

“We have combined three locations into a gymnasium. As you know the governor gave an executive order, so we have the authority to use a school gymnasium. We don’t have large places here in Hernando County, so this is very helpful,” explained Shirley Anderson, Hernando County Supervisor of Elections.

Meanwhile, Hillsborough County has seen more interest from volunteers this year.

“We actually had to hang out the no more help needed sign. Because we pretty rapidly filled our almost 2,100 poll workers position for election day,” said Craig Latimer, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections.

He credits the recruitment efforts of the Tampa Bay Chamber and major league teams in the Tampa Bay area. Election officials in Polk County had to step up their recruiting.

“We approached local government and state government and large employers and asked anybody who’s already working to help us think of someone else who might work,” Edwards said.

On Election Day, Polk County will be fully staffed with 1,700 workers.

“They give so much of themselves, so I want to remind the voters when you do get to the front of the line and you're greeted by an election worker, an election worker maybe helped you, give them a big smile and tell them thank you, they’re doing a lot for all of us,” expressed Edwards.