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Despite early worries, critical election workers are “crawling out of the woodwork”

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 11:25 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Not long ago, Traci Clark thought she had a problem on her hands.

“After June, I was like, this is going to be awful, you know?” said the Botetourt County General Registrar.

Even in a good year, Clark struggles to find enough poll workers. This year, she figured would be even worse, “especially with the pandemic.”

Local, state and national leaders have been warning for months that a poll worker shortage is a possibility in November. Most poll workers are in their 70s, making them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

But what’s happened in the run-up to the 2020 election has turned those fears on their heads.

“It’s like they’re crawling out of the woodwork,” said Clark.

Normally, Botetourt employs about 150 poll workers on election day. This year, another 58 have signed up, and more are applying every day.

“All age groups, all demographics really, both Republicans, Democrats and independents," said Clark, adding she’s even considered turning people away.

Botetourt isn’t alone. Counties and cities across our region, including Craig, Franklin and Danville are seeing similar trends.

“You can feel the excitement in the air,” said Danville’s General Registrar Peggy Petty.

Petty says the surge is coming from a combination of factors. There’s the increased voter engagement leading up to the 2020 election. There were also calls from Gov. Northam and local officials that poll workers were desperately needed, “and word of mouth from election offices themselves, recruiting friends and family to come out and help us.”

No one factor has tipped the balance.

“It’s just kind of been snowballing,” said Traci Clark.

Clark, Petty, and others did caution that just because things look good now doesn’t mean it can’t change - poll workers can always drop out, get sick or have other issues.

Clark says she’ll be watching closely as November third gets closer, but " I’m very comfortable where we are right now."

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