Making Sure Every Vote Counts

Election workers will receive hazard pay in 2020

“It’s not easy … but it’s fun,” says local Director of Elections Karen Hebb, hoping to encourage a fresh crop of poll workers.
Portrait by Clark Hodgin

Karen Hebb has been an election precinct worker since 1986, but after accepting the position of Director of Elections for Henderson County last November, her responsibilities have risen to a whole new level. Due to COVID-19, the Board of Elections faces historically unprecedented challenges, and needs assistance from the voting public. 

You must find this work rewarding, you’ve done it for many years. 

I do, and we have some poll workers who have worked every year since they were old enough to vote. Being a poll worker isn’t easy, but it’s fun and you’re doing a service for your community. You may see a neighbor you haven’t seen for a while, and you can help them vote. 

How many poll workers do you need this year? 

We need them for One-Stop [early absentee] voting, which starts October 15th, and for election day, and we have about 35 polling sites in the county. So we need about 350 in all. In years with a presidential election, the turnout is so large.

If someone wants to help, what’s the process?

We have a website application you’ll need to fill out and mail or bring to our office, or we can mail an application to you. Then we’ll get in contact with you to get to know you and about your skills, so that we can place you in the right job. Some of the jobs require more computer skills, for instance, but others don’t.

What about training to work in a voting precinct?

Poll workers are required by law to attend a training session, which usually only takes about an hour, and they are paid $15 for doing the training. For election-day pay, the pay is normally $155 plus the $15 for the training, and this time there will be an increase in pay. We don’t know yet exactly how much that will be, but the total will be $170 plus. Some people call it hazard pay because of the pandemic, and if you’re willing to help us out, we’re willing to pay you a little more to do it.

Polling places will have special safeguards in place this year, won’t they?

Yes. We will practice social distancing and have poll workers to monitor that, and we’ll provide protective masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer to those who don’t bring their own. There will be sneeze guards installed between the voters and the poll workers at the check-in tables, and voters will be issued disposable pens that they can keep, for one-time-only use. The equipment will also be cleaned and sanitized as frequently as possible between voters.

What if people are still nervous?

There are always mail-in ballots for anyone leery of going out in public. All you need is to fill out a request form on our site, or on the North Carolina state site (ncvoter.org/absentee-ballots/). We have probably already gotten 4,000 requests.

To find out more about becoming a precinct worker, visit the website — www.hendersoncountync.gov/elections — or call the Henderson County Board of Elections at 828-697-4970. 

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