Counties Expect More Training, More Poll Workers Will Make For Smoother Election

Poll workers attend a training class in Cobb County, four weeks before Election Day, when record turnout is expected across Georgia.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

Christopher Goss says part of his role as a Cobb County poll worker isn’t just to help voters with technical questions, it’s making sure they actually enjoy the process

“I’m not one who’s low key about it,” said Goss. “So, everybody that comes, I welcome them with happiness and joy and so they feel comfortable.”

Goss has worked the polls since 2016. But he was one of nearly forty people who came to a large conference room in Marietta Wednesday to get hands-on training on the state’s new voting equipment.

In-person early voting for the November election in Georgia begins on Monday and counties have placed a major emphasis in the last several months on recruiting and training poll workers.

In June, several counties in Georgia and metro Atlanta in particular saw long lines, blamed in part on poll workers who were unfamiliar with the voting equipment. Many longtime poll workers also dropped out because of fears over the coronavirus.

Nerissa Dyess, a training supervisor for Cobb County, says it’s vital to let poll workers experience the new voting equipment first-hand, after much of the training earlier this year, was done online because of the pandemic.

Poll workers in Cobb County practice setting up voting equipment during a four-hour training class. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

“We’ve only used it fully in June — was our first time, so after that, we saw the need to develop their skills on how to set up and take down the equipment properly,” said Dyess.

County and state elections officials have been encouraged in recent months with an overwhelming response to a call for more poll workers.

The state says it’s sent names of more than 10,000 potential poll workers to counties – a stark contrast to June when help was hard to come by.

Fulton County elections director Richard Barron says the county will have 2,900 workers at polling places on Nov. 3.

“We’ve been doing refresher training for everyone and new poll managers that will be in the field Nov. 3 shadowed experienced poll managers [in the special election] on Sept. 29th,” said Barron.

Community Involvement

Seeing the need for elections workers following the June primaries, some workplaces are even offering paid leave to employees who want to work the polls. Companies like Berman Fink Van Horn, an Atlanta law firm where Ken Winkler works.

“While participation in voting is important, it’s also important that the voting process works,” said Winkler. “Having sufficient poll officials and workers, we think is critical.”

At Emory University, the Rollins School of Public Health is canceling classes on Nov. 3 so that students, faculty and staff can work or volunteer at the polls.

“Students are eager to work with this initiative on various levels, from helping us coordinate and build partnerships with local organizations to volunteering on Election Day,” said Lisa Chung who, along with fellow student Nellie Garlow, has helped run the Rollins Election Day Initiative.

Garlow says despite low turnout among young voters, she still sees lots of interest in elections on campus.

“It may just be barriers like class schedules and school deadlines that are preventing us from voting at higher rates,” said Garlow “And students are fed up with these barriers and we want them to be removed so that we can easily participate in elections.”