(TNS) — Colorado’s county clerks have worried the coronavirus pandemic would leave them short on election workers, since the older folks who tend to sign up to run voting centers, process mail-in ballots and verify signatures are the ones most at risk.
But other Coloradans have stepped up — in a big way.
“We’ve seen a remarkable response. We’ve have had hundreds per county,” said Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association.
She and others charged with recruiting workers to fill election judge slots say they’re seeing people from a broader range of ages and backgrounds express interest, either directly or through a form on the Colorado secretary of state’s website. The major parties also will soon send clerks lists of potential workers, which get priority.
It’s all part of a process that aims to keep multiple sets of eyes — from differing political backgrounds — on each step of the process to ensure the Nov. 3 election will be run fairly and transparently.
In Denver, more than 550 applications to be an election judge came in Tuesday alone, largely due to the fact it was National Poll Worker Recruitment Day. That pushed the county’s total to more than 4,000, said Elizabeth Littlepage, the Denver Elections Division’s election judge coordinator.
At this time four years ago the division hadn’t even hit 100 election judge applicants yet.
In southwest Colorado’s La Plata County, home to Durango, Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker said the “awesome response” so early means the election should have ample staffing.
A likely factor is the fact that so many people have been out of work — and looking for ways to make extra money. The positions are multiday commitments, paying at least $10 an hour but often quite a bit more.
There’s also high interest in this particular election, officials said, along with extra public scrutiny on election security in the wake of baseless claims made about mail voting by President Donald Trump this summer.
Colorado’s status as a mail-voting state means it must recruit far fewer election judges than states with traditional Election Day polling places. But it still needs dozens of them in small counties and hundreds in larger ones.
“We haven’t seen some of the same impacts that other states have seen,” Anderson said, “but we’re certainly contingency-planning.”
Denver officials are seeking to hire about 1,050 election workers — nearly double the 590 hired in 2016 — because of the need to staff 10 additional voting centers and to make pandemic-related changes, including the use of staggered shifts downtown for ballot-processing closer to Election Day.
The strongly left-leaning city and county still faces the perennial challenge of recruiting enough Republicans, while some GOP-heavy counties face the flip side of that problem.
So far, GOP voters account for a small fraction of Denver’s applications — Littlepage said she would need 234 more to achieve parity with Democrats and unaffiliated voters. The Denver Republican Party is trying to recruit both election judges and poll-watchers.
“It’s always a concern if we can’t staff our full quota — we want to make sure we can do that,” party Chairwoman Kristina Cook said, adding: “We do want to participate and show we are part of this community, and part of that is stepping up to be part of the election process.”
Another challenge as the presidential election approaches: Some smaller clerk’s offices are cramped, Anderson said, and may hire fewer election judges than normal to maintain safe distancing. That could slow ballot-processing times.
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