ALBANY — After running a June primary election with some polling locations closed due to a shortage of poll workers, Dougherty County elections officials are looking to enlist more help for the November general election.
Twelve precincts were combined for the primary contest so that a total of 22 was open instead of the full 28 because of the impact of the novel coronavirus and some workers deciding to stay home rather than put themselves at risk.
“We actually had people quit a week before the election,” Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said while updating Dougherty County Commission members during a meeting of that board Monday.
The number of coronavirus cases has dramatically dropped since April, but the numbers recently have increased in the county and across the state.
There are a sufficient number of supervisors available for the Nov. 3 general election that will include the presidential race, but to date there are not a sufficient number of poll workers signed up,” Nickerson told the board.
“We do not have enough staff to open all 28 for the general election,” she said. “We need around 280 or more to staff all 28 precincts. Our goal is to have all 28 precincts open.”
Several commission members suggested asking churches and schools, including Albany State University and high school students, to help out. Another possibility is having county workers help out during the election, Commissioner Anthony Jones suggested.
“Is there any way we can transfer any of our other employees who are working in other departments so we can get all the 28 precincts open?” he said. “Or do we need to reach out and take other measures? We need to do whatever we can.”
While some staff assisted in June, with the county re-opening all of its offices, the county likely will not be able to shift as many workers to the polling places, County Administrator Michael McCoy said.
“To the extent we can, we will certainly move whatever staff we have available to help out in the precincts,” McCoy said.
Volunteer organizations also could help out, Jones suggested.
“A lot of different organizations have sort of pledged or committed to support the precinct operations,” Commissioner Russell Gray said. “Mainly it is volunteers who are needed. A lot of these volunteers can be found at churches. I really think we can have some conversations with some of these organizations about re-engaging.”
Early voting for the November election begins on Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 30, with a Saturday voting day on Oct. 24.
Due to space constraints on the second floor of the Government Center, where early voting usually takes place, all early voting will be conducted at the downtown Riverfront Resource Center’s Candy Room at 125 Pine Ave.
The size of the area at that location allows for lines to wind around inside while still maintaining the required social distancing, Nickerson said.
If there is an overflow crowd outside or inclement weather predicted on the Saturday voting day, the county could assist with providing portable canopies outside, Commissioner Clinton Johnson said.
“We will certainly make sure there is enough staff for social distancing,” Nickerson said.
“We will have at least 12 people, if not more, on that Saturday.”