Boone County’s polling places will need 150 more workers in the November general election than they had in the August primary because of the relatively high turnout expected, County Clerk Taylor Burks said Thursday.
“We scraped and scrounged for poll workers in August, and we are going to have a bigger shortage in November if we don’t find more folks to come out and help us,” Burks said.
Being prepared for higher turnout was one of the issues that August election judges cited in a survey Burks conducted. He released the results Wednesday.
The survey asked the judges how they would rate training, equipment, the facility of the poll location, staff and operations. The ratings offered were poor, fair, average, good and excellent.
Although the results were positive overall, Burks said, the 37.32 percent turnout of voters in August kept poll workers on their feet and busy the entire day. Polling places had the same number of workers as the April election, when turnout was 16 percent.
“When you are just doubling up turnout with the same number of poll workers, people are going to feel frazzled,” Burks said.
August primaries in 2015 and 2016 had turnouts of about 30 percent. This year, the right-to-work ballot issue known as Proposition A drove more people to the polls.
With a highly contested U.S. Senate contest and races for Congress, state auditor, state representative and county offices — along with several statewide ballot issues — the November election is expected to bring even more people out to vote.
The mid-term election of 2014 saw turnout of 43.6 percent, according to the county clerk’s records.
Poll workers are paid $175 dollars for Election Day, which lasts about 15 hours, Burks said. Training is three to four hours, and workers earn $10 per hour for that.
Burks said he has been meeting with groups such as the Retired Teachers Association, MU sororities and fraternities, student groups and Rotary Clubs to recruit poll workers and avoid a shortage.
“My calendar seems to be full of all those different groups that we can reach out to of people who are civically minded and are willing to give us a day,” he said.
As for the survey, poll workers also weighed in on equipment issues and the quality of training and facilities.
A little more than 83 percent of respondents rated accessibility at the polls as “good” or “excellent.” Some commented on the difficulty of finding certain polling places. One said the Cattleman’s Association was “hard for people to find” because the appearance made people think they were in the wrong place.
Another said the American Legion Post can be hard to find.
“If you don’t know where this polling place is the sign is hard to see from E. Broadway.”
Poor lighting was mentioned twice in the survey, and the Thornbrook Clubhouse was described as cramped and hard to access.
Burks said that when it comes to some of these issues, especially the location of polling places, his office is “just stuck.” Smaller towns such as Harrisburg and Sturgeon, he said, don’t have a lot of alternatives as far as poll locations.
“It’s not always an ideal situation, and you make do with what you got at times,” he said.
Burks hopes to have new election equipment by April, according to previous Missourian reporting. This will replace aging touch screens and polling pads, which were mentioned in the survey.
Overall, 84 percent of the election judges rated the August primary as “good” or “excellent” while less then 4 percent rated it fair or poor.
Ratings for training increased slightly from November 2017 to August. About 83 percent of poll workers described the training as good or excellent last year, while 86 percent did so in August.
Burks said that’s a positive sign.
“Ultimately when training is better, election day operations get better as well,” Burks said.
This is the fourth time Burks has surveyed poll workers since he was appointed Boone County clerk. Burks, a Republican, faces Democrat Brianna Lennon in the November election.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.