It’s the type of problem many election officials across the country would like to have – Arlington has too many people wanting to serve as poll officials in the upcoming election.
Way, way too many.
About 440 are needed and more than 1,100 expressed interest in serving, said Eric Olsen, Arlington’s deputy registrar. He called it, without hyperbole, “an extraordinary amount of interest.”
“It’s great – we love it,” said county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer.
Strangely enough, the reason for the increase appears to be COVID. Starting with elections held in 2020, the number of new people offering their services at the polls (earning $175 to $230 for a long day’s work) far outstripped those who bowed out due to health concerns.
The excess is causing Arlington election officials to strike a balance between new people with those who have served in past elections, giving everyone a chance going forward.
“We’re trying to rotate people through [upcoming elections] as much as we can – make sure to include some new people in the process,” Olsen said at the Sept. 9 meeting of the Arlington Electoral Board.
Assignments should go out shortly. About seven or eight staff are needed for each of Arlington’s 54 precincts, with larger precincts requiring a few more.
One challenge will be to find a balance of pollworkers representing Democratic and Republican interests, as required under state law. Because of the smaller number of Republicans in the community, the party sometimes is underrepresented.
“We have a couple of locations where we might have a little bit of a challenge,” said Olsen, noting that the chairs of both political parties are in the loop on the recruitment process.
Due to the upsurge in COVID cases of late, it is likely that the mandatory training for all pollworkers will be online, but “we would especially love to have some in-person training for new officers and chiefs,” Olsen said.
All pollworkers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID or to present proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of starting service.
All pollworkers will be required to wear masks.
“We should have a very safe environment,” Electoral Board chairman Matt Weinstein.
Thus far, there have been no known cases of the virus transmitted during voting in Arlington since the start of the pandemic.