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Counties seek more poll workers for upcoming elections

State recognizes Help America Vote Day

File Photo A voter fills out a ballot in privacy during a previous election in Ward County.

Ward County has openings for dozens of workers interested in helping conduct their local primary and general elections.

“We are always looking for election workers,” said Ward County Auditor Marisa Haman, who will be staffing poll sites in two additional communities this year.

North Dakota needs more than 3,000 poll workers to help elections run smoothly, according to the North Dakota Office of the Secretary of State. The office announced it is recognizing Help America Vote Day next Tuesday by encouraging people to volunteer as election poll workers. First recognized by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in 2022, Help America Vote Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of poll workers and inspire more Americans to play a role in the electoral process.

“Elections would not be possible without poll workers. It is an opportunity for citizens to get involved in the election process and ensure polling locations are open for friends and neighbors in their community,” said Secretary of State Michael Howe in a news release. “I encourage North Dakotans to sign up as poll workers to help ensure that voters can cast their ballots safely and successfully.”

Ward County will need workers for new polling places in Burlington and Surrey. Other polling locations are in Berthold, Kenmare, Ryder, Sawyer and in Minot at the Municipal Auditorium Armory, Ward County Administration Building and State Fair Center.

Haman said she prefers to have election workers who live in or close to the communities with poll centers, but often finding workers in the smaller communities can be difficult. She particularly highlighted a need for workers to fill positions in Kenmare and Sawyer.

She said it has been encouraging to see Surrey and Ryder, which feel strongly about maintaining local polls, step up to provide lists of prospective election workers.

Poll workers help prepare the polling locations, check in voters, issue ballots and help close down the polls at the end of election day. They assist voters by demonstrating how to use voting equipment and explain voting procedures. Special experience is not needed because training is provided, the Secretary of State’s Office noted.

The office also stated that working as a poll worker is a great way to meet new people, serve the community and strengthen democracy.

Haman said Ward County pays workers for their time during the two- to three-hour training as well as for election day. The county pays mileage if rural travel or travel to another community is necessary.

Ward County’s rural polls require five workers and Minot polls up to 12. Additionally, workers are needed for the six days of early voting in Minot. Having trained backup workers, just in case, also is an advantage.

Haman said she does expect a number of previous election helpers to return. Retirees have provided a good pool of election workers over the years and still do, she said. There was higher turnover in more recent years due to concerns about COVID-19 and the adoption of new election technology, although the technology has helped draw more younger workers, she said.

Bottineau County has a core group of workers who come back routinely, said Auditor Emily Deschamp, Bottineau.

“They, every year, look forward to coming in,” she said. “The only area that I am seeing more of an issue is probably my Lansford polling location, just because there’s not a lot of people there and some of the people who live in the area are from the (air) base.”

“We are always looking,” said McLean County Auditor Beth Knutson, Washburn. “We have some that come back, but we are always looking for a few.”

The need for more workers is somewhat higher in Mountrail County.

“We have trouble finding people to fill the spots so we are always looking for election workers,” said Heather Greenlee, deputy auditor. “Some districts are easier to fill than others.”

The areas that end up hunting for workers tend to vary from election to election, she said, but the greatest need often has been in the New Town area.

McHenry County Auditor Darlene Carpenter, Towner, said her county has been fortunate to have a group of residents willing to serve year after year. As a vote-by-mail county, McHenry has only one voting place on election day, which limits the need to about eight workers.

The situation is similar in Renville County.

“We don’t really have too much of a problem,” Auditor LeAnn Pollman, Mohall, said. “We only have one in-person voting site so we only need six people.”

Renville County, also a mail-ballot county, has one polling location and an established list of repeat poll workers, Auditor Amie Vandegraft said.

Although the process of actively lining up workers hasn’t begun yet, she said, county auditors already are conversing regularly with the Secretary of State’s Office to plan for the upcoming elections.

Application information

Area residents interested in becoming primary or general election workers in their counties should contact their county auditor’s offices.

Poll workers need to be at least 16 years old, a U.S. citizen and a resident of North Dakota. They must be able to attend a training session and will be paid for their efforts.

The primary election is June 11, and the general election will be held Nov. 5.

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