With coronavirus precautions in place, El Paso County has no shortage of residents willing to work the polls for the Nov. 3 election.
More than 1,200 people applied for 550 temporary poll jobs for the upcoming election, easing concerns about filling the critical positions even as some other states have struggled to draw applicants, county Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said Wednesday.
“I was most certainly surprised,” Broerman said of the local response.
A lack of election judges — who answer phones, register voters, verify signatures, sort and count ballots, deliver ballots from poll centers, enter data and perform other tasks — have been reported in some states including Illinois, Maryland and Wisconsin.
The flood of interest comes after a successful June primary, in which COVID-19 pandemic procedures kept voters and workers safe. No local coronavirus cases were attributed to the primary election, which in El Paso County used 230 temporary election workers, he said.
This year, all election workers will wear masks and undergo health screenings that include temperature checks, and there will be Plexiglas screening shielding them. Some will don gloves. In-person voters are asked but not required to wear face masks, Broerman said.
To attract applicants, Colorado is paying election judges $3 more per hour than in the past and offering paid sick leave.
That brings the starting rate to $15.50 per hour, with assignments lasting from a few days up to five weeks.
Colorado Springs resident Larry Barrett has worked as an election judge in the past.
He said he enjoys doing the short-term assignment “out of a sense of civic duty.”
The work also provides a sense of accomplishment, and it’s fun to be part of the entire voting process, he said.
The 550 workers being hired locally is nearly double the number used in the 2016 presidential election, Broerman said. He attributes the increase to additional voting centers and ballot drop boxes around town and a “marked jump” in people registering to vote.
Earlier this year, El Paso County had 420,000 registered voters; there are now more than 435,000.
“Every day, we’re processing or updating records of 300 to 1,000 voters,” Broerman said.
While Colorado has used the current mail-in-ballot method since 2013, under which 12 elections have been held, typically 4% to 6% of registered voters cast their ballots in person, he said.
Broerman’s not sure what that percentage will look like this year.
But he’s encouraging voters to return ballots by mail, defining it as the easiest and safest way to vote under Colorado’s “tried and true” system. Ballots go in the mail to registered voters on Friday.
For the June primary, which normally sees 2% of El Paso County voters filling out their ballots in person, just .5% voted in-person at service and polling centers, Broerman said.
There was not a noticeable decrease in El Paso County retirees seeking election positions, a group that usually turns out in force to help.
According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Election Administration and Voting Survey, about 917,700 poll workers manned voting sites nationwide for the 2016 presidential election. More than half were 61 years of age or older.
Locally, "the makeup is very similar to what we’ve had in the past,” except for an uptick in younger applicants, Broerman said.
Everyone who's hired also must pass a background check.