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Ward County seeks backup election workers

Ward County is struggling to retain election workers as COVID-19 cases rise, County Auditor Marisa Haman told the county commission Tuesday.

Haman said there are enough workers currently to staff the five proposed Voting Centers on election day, Nov. 3, but that could change.

“I really would like to have more backups,” she said.

Concern about COVID-19 as well as quarantines imposed due to coming in close contact with infected individuals has impacted the ability to hang onto workers. The county begins training election workers on the new voting machines today, and an additional training session will be offered Thursday.

Haman said each voting center needs, at minimum, an inspector, two judges and a clerk. If the county becomes unable to maintain enough workers, it may be necessary to reduce the number of voting centers. Currently, centers are planned at Minot Municipal Auditorium, the State Fair Center and city halls in Berthold, Ryder and Kenmare.

Haman also is urging voters to consider voting early or absentee due to the uncertainties with COVID-19 and the ability to keep polling places open. Early voting starts next Monday.

Some county employees have stepped up to make themselves available as backup help if necessary. County Commissioner John Pietsch, who is not on the ballot, also volunteered to serve if needed.

In other business, the commission discussed revising its employee grievance policy. A draft policy recommended by the human resources director proposed a process by which an employee would meet with a supervisor or department head, and if failing to resolve an issue, the concern would go to the human resources director. The policy failed to pass as commissioners debated adding a step to either appeal to the commission or retain the existing personnel committee, which consists of two commissioners who make recommendations to the commission. Eventually voting to retain a personnel committee were Alan Walter, Jim Rostad, John Fjeldahl and Pietsch. Shelly Weppler voted against.

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