Poll workers, mail-in voting issues as November election nears

North Carolina's top elections administrator has ordered counties to open a minimum number of...
North Carolina's top elections administrator has ordered counties to open a minimum number of early in-person voting sites this fall to buttress ballot access during the COVID-19 pandemic.(WITN)
Published: Jul. 19, 2020 at 10:42 AM EDT
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State and local election officials across the country are trying to recruit younger workers to staff polling places on Election Day in November.

The effort is driven by concern that many traditional poll workers will be too worried about catching the coronavirus to show up. About two-thirds of poll workers across the U.S. are over age 61, putting them at a higher risk of catching the COVID-19 disease.

Some states are trying to partner with professional and fraternal organizations. Ohio is recruiting high school students, and some groups are trying to harness the youth energy from recent racial justice protests.

Concern about the lack of poll workers was one reason Wood County consolidated its 69 precincts into seven polling places for West Virginia’s June 9 primary. There was concern about long lines, but no major problems were reported election day.

As more states embrace mail-in balloting, an often overlooked detail has emerged as a partisan dividing line: postage.

Ohio conducted all-mail-in balloting for its primary, after it was postponed from March to late April. West Virginia’s primary, postponed from May to June, had traditional in-person voting, but voters were also encouraged to send in ballots by mail. Nearly 20% of the state’s registered voters did so.

But in other states, questions over whether to require postage for absentee ballot applications and the ballots themselves, who pays for it and what happens to envelopes without stamps are the subject of lawsuits and statehouse political brawls.

Lawsuits in Florida, Georgia and other states argue that stamps constitute a monetary requirement akin to a poll tax.

Voting-rights groups say they’re just another impediment to voting. The debate has become vehement in Ohio, where legislation would explicitly prohibit the state’s elections chief from pre-paying postage.

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