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Lee County Election leaders deal with poll worker shortage

Posted at 7:12 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 20:02:10-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — We're just about two weeks away from Florida's primary election, and while fewer people are expected to show up at the polls thanks to vote-by-mail ballots, there is still a need for poll workers.

To help manage a shortage in Lee County, The City of Fort Myers voted Monday unanimously to adopt a policy that would allow city workers to volunteer as poll workers for the primary election.

This comes following a request from the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, Tommy Doyle.

"We're ok right now, but we need poll workers in case someone drops out, for alternates," Said Doyle.

Doyle says they are down about 1,000 poll workers right now.

"Normally we'll work with 2,000 poll workers. Leading up a few weeks ago when we start our training, we were at about 900 scheduled for training," said Doyle.

Some of those polls workers have already dropped out as well.

Doyle says this shortage of poll workers comes at no surprise.

"We knew we were going to have a short of poll workers long ago because we sent out availability letters to all our poll workers that we have on record," said Doyle.

Many of those workers responding they would not return over coronavirus concerns.

"Most of our polls workers are in that age that if they get COVID, it could be a problem," said Doyle.

The shortage of poll workers is also impacting the number of polling locations that will be open for the state's primary election come August 18, 2020.

"Usually, we have 125 polling places on election day, and we're now down to 96," Said Doyle.

To manage this shortage, Doyle turned to The City of Fort Myers for help.

"The governor put out an emergency order allowing state workers to take administrative leave to work election day," said Doyle. "They would allow them up to 10-hours for training and 16-hours for election day."

Doyle says city workers that volunteer will be paid the fee for their position.

With the number of polling places reduced, Doyle says a good way to avoid long lines is to vote early, which starts Saturday, August 8, 2020, or vote-by-mail.

"If they want to come to the polls, just be prepared because, because of COVID and the protocols that we have to adhere to with cleaning and sanitizing and 6-foot distancing, there is going to be some wait time," said Doyle.

The last day you can request a vote-by-mail ballot for the primary election is August 8, before 5 p.m.

For more election information or to become a poll worker, click here.