Charleston, W.Va. — The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that the effects of COVID-19 are most severe in senior citizens and those with existing medical conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus, and yet, they are some of the very people who often staff the polls during elections. Secretary of State Mac Warner is working diligently with county clerks to prevent shortages of poll workers in the West Virginia May 12 Primary Election.
Using the famous Uncle Sam recruiting portraiture and playing off of the U.S. "Selective Service" program, today, Secretary Warner announced "OPERATION ELECTIVE SERVICE." This program is to recruit people who are less susceptible to COVID-19 to volunteer for a paid poll worker position for the May Primary Election. A social media campaign will encourage citizens to "sign up" and will enlist the help of schools/educators, businesses, labor, trade, and other organizations to assist with poll worker recruitment for each county.
There are currently 1,723 polling locations throughout the state, each requiring five poll workers assigned to each precinct. Statewide elections in West Virginia require more than 9,000 workers on Election Day.
"I'm asking West Virginians who are willing and able to step up and help out in our democratic process," Warner said. "We're doing our best to offer opportunities to vote, and everyone is working under difficult circumstances. Recruiting more poll workers will help counties fill vacancies left by veteran poll workers who may not be able to work the polls in this Primary. This is a great civic opportunity for our younger generation to help administer and protect our democracy. They can help make sure every eligible voter has the chance to vote."
CDC officials have not been able to predict the peak of the epidemic in the coming months, so the date of the May 12 election stands as mandated in law. Accordingly, Warner has worked closely with the Governor, the Attorney General, and county clerks to make voting options as robust as ever in WV.
“People have three ways to vote in the Primary,” Warner said. “First, everyone is eligible to vote from home by absentee ballot; second, they can vote early at satellite locations from Apr 29 to May 9; or third, they can vote at the polls on election day.”
To assist with early voting from April 29 to May 9, and Election Day on May 12, many counties will need additional support and poll workers.
"If poll workers are concerned for their health, we certainly understand and appreciate that concern. With the recent Stay-at-Home order by the Governor, we've developed a strategy to recruit less susceptible people to step up and help fill poll worker vacancies," Warner said.
All poll workers are paid to attend a training seminar hosted by county clerks and for their work on election day. Total pay depends on the county and ranges between $175 to $240 per person.
The Secretary of State's Office established an easy online form for anyone interested in signing up to be a poll worker. The portal is available at WVSOS.gov under "Become a Poll Worker."