PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Tampa Bay area election officials are thrilled to see a surge in the number of people wanting to become poll workers for the upcoming November election.It’s a big change from March when thousands of poll workers statewide dropped out or were no shows for the presidential preference primary. In that race, COVID-19 fears kept many poll workers from feeling comfortable enough to serve.Now, local election leaders are seeing a spike in applicants and even having to turn some away because of demand.
“I feel like I’m making history. We all are,” poll worker Cindy Seletos said adding that it’s a true honor to serve as a poll worker which gives her the ability to be an eye witness to history.“I love doing it because it’s like a civic duty. I feel like I’m giving back a little bit,” she added.That interest is catching on. Local election leaders in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Citrus counties say they are seeing a surge in the number of people wanting to serve as poll workers.“We had just a tremendous, tremendous response to the point where we had to hang up the no more help wanted sign on our website because we had way more than we needed,” Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer explained.Tampa Bay counties recruited help from other county departments, state workers and local companies, which are stepping up by allowing employees to work at the polls rather than the office on election day.They are also seeing a lot more interest from the public, across a wide range of ages.“When you’re a purple state, in a purple county, and now we’re considered the bellweather county of the country what’s really neat about that is you’ll have a really engaged electorate,” Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus added.Only Polk and Sarasota County election leaders are still looking for poll workers. All our other local county leaders say they are set.Election leaders are also launching new safety protocols in time for early voting to start next week (Monday, October 19) including Plexiglas barriers between voters and poll workers, socially distanced voting booths, one-time use of pens and stylus and limits on how many people can be in a precinct at one time.“We’re making sure that they’re protected, that our voters are protected so that we can have a really smooth election,” Marcus added.The surge in poll workers is key since election leaders are expecting to see a record breaking number of people casting a ballot this November in person or by mail.Pinellas and Hillsborough County election officials are also excited to have received many mail ballots back early. In Pinellas County, more than 100,000 mail ballots have been returned and 390,000 were mailed to residents.In Hillsborough County, 130,000 have been returned of about 400,000 who requested mail ballots.Here’s where Tampa Bay counties stand on the need for poll workers:Pinellas: Seeing a big surge in poll worker interest. They shut off applications because they reached the necessary number and already have extra back ups in place.Hillsborough: We’ve seen lots of poll worker interest. They too shut off new applications after seeing a huge surge in people wanting to be poll workers.Sarasota: After conducting community outreach and sending out a mailer to voters, Sarasota election leaders have had a positive response from the community regarding poll worker recruitment. We are adequately staffed for the November 3 General Election. Anyone who is interested in applying to become a poll worker can visit our website at SarasotaVotes.com.Highlands: County election leaders recruited all the poll workers that we need…approximately 250. Highlands County has had several new people wish to assist with becoming poll workers, but would not call it a surge. They are grateful for their community and the willingness to serve.Citrus: Citus County election leaders have the number of poll workers they need for the general election and yes, they did experience a “surge” in interest in people wanting to work the polls. Election leaders say “a number of civic minded people wanted to assist in this election.”Pasco: For the March Presidential Preference Primary (PPP), Pasco County lost nearly 300 poll workers. They reached out to the County Administrator, Constitutional Officers in Pasco County (Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, Superintendent of Schools, Clerk of the Court) who assisted in providing support. They now have a surplus of poll workers for the General Election.Polk: No “surge” in interested poll workers in Polk, but they are recruiting enough folks to work. They need about 1,700 for this election.