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Idaho county elections officials look for poll workers

Screenshot from Idaho Secretary of State webpage
The Idaho Secretary of State is using its webpage to recruit people to work at pollsites during November's general election.

The Kootenai County elections office is looking for people to work the polls for November’s general election. The office is sponsoring an open house on Tuesday.

The poll worker employment shortage is not limited to Kootenai County. It appears to be a national issue. A month ago, Congress designed August 23 at National Poll Worker Recruitment Day. It was an event promoted by the office of Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane.

“People often don’t realize, when they think of elections and voting, it takes quite the workforce to get people out to the polls,” he said. “In Idaho, we probably use about 5,000 poll workers across the state for major elections. That’s a lot of community members to make it all happen.”

Poll workers hand out ballots and check in voters when they come to vote. The hours on Election Day are long and the pay isn’t great, $100 or $200 a day for 12 or more hours of work.

“My experience has been many people just see it as an opportunity to serve and they consider it almost like volunteer work. They just are really dedicated to the process. This is a great way too for people who don’t want to get in the thick of partisan politics, but really care about our country and the process and it really is just a way for civic engagement,” he said.

How does Idaho recruit poll workers? There are open houses like the one Kootenai County will sponsor on Tuesday from 4-7 pm in the elections office at 1808 N. Third Street in Coeur d’Alene.

Sometimes, McGrane says, the work happens one-on-one.

“Some of the best recruitment happens by friends calling up friends, someone who’s worked the polls before, telling a neighbor or a friend and asking them to serve and so the more we can get word of mouth, it’s a huge help,” he said.

“When we can get people who are recently retired or looking for some way to get engaged in the community, becoming a poll worker is a great way to do it and it’s not too demanding too by demanding up to four days a year that they’re asked to serve.”

Some may worry about the potential for violence by a disgruntled voter, but McGrane says Idaho’s polls are safe and haven’t had any cases of violence or protests.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.