Local election officials adapt to pandemic
Local election officials have been hurriedly making final preparations for Tuesday’s primary election, including counting far more ballots submitted ahead.
As of Thursday morning, the Jackson County Election Board had received more than 8,800 completed ballots, either mailed in or from walk-ins. Tammy Brown, one of the board’s two directors, said normally they receive about 3,400 for an August primary.
Given the pandemic, that isn’t a surprise, and election workers know this will be good practice for an assuredly larger number of ballots for the November election.
“We anticipated it,” Brown said, given the pandemic. “We’ve got a process that worked pretty good to get these out. We proof it several times before it goes out the door.
“But I would be kidding if I could tell how November will look.”
In addition to the normal polling equipment, election officials have been making sure each location will have enough sanitary and cleaning supplies on hand. Whereas in June the Election Board was able to use just 43 polling locations, many of them large enough to handle several polling precincts, this time there are 90 locations for the 131 polls, as the ballot includes countywide questions. June’s ballot had municipal and school district questions, Brown said.
“It wasn’t a countywide election, so that made it a little easier, and turnout was about 16 percent,” she said. “Even August is never stellar – anywhere from 18 to 24 percent.”
Even without a large turnout, all the public health guidelines made for potentially strenuous times at polling places. Instead, Brown was gratified about the smooth process and said it helped with preparations for this election and even November.
“In my 21 years with the board, 11 years as a director, we’ve never had so many compliments,” Brown said of the June election, which had been postponed from April due to the pandemic. “It was nice to hear; usually we only get complaints.
“We tried to have everything spaced apart, tried to get judges outfitted, and our judges have been very honest with us, if they have an underlying health issue.”
Something that does concern Brown, perhaps not as much now as preparing for November – having enough judges and poll workers. This year, they offered online training for judges.
“We’ve had some new poll worker sign-ups, and we’re seeing some younger people who are maybe not going back to (college) or are trying to make some extra money,” Brown said. “We’re losing some people now, with the case numbers going up, but we’re pretty sure we can get those filled.
“I’m probably a little more worried about November, because we’ll need more judges.”
HEADED TO THE POLLS
State and local primaries are on Tuesday. Polls in Missouri are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.