Upcoming August and November elections present new challenges for poll workers

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT) – The pandemic has without question changed the way we go out and vote.

Many people are now preferring to vote absentee, and even some poll workers are backing out.

The upcoming August and November elections could be the most challenging ones yet for those working the polls.

“During this time, we still get our right to vote,” Chrissy Nelson said, a Chief Election Inspector in Holmen.

Nelson is just one of more than 200 people needed to work the polls for the upcoming elections.

“I think it’s an important job,” Nelson said.

She already carries a heavy responsibility as the Chief Election Inspector.

“Kinda run the room and maintain the order of everything,” Nelson said.

The pandemic isn’t making her job any easier.

“Definitely, there’s more stuff to remember,” Nelson said.

Nelson says her main duty is to make sure every voter puts their ballot in the machine correctly.

“The fact that we’re gonna have more absentee’s, that job gets harder,” Nelson said.

It’s a long list of responsibilities for not just Nelson, but every poll worker.

“You’re gonna make sure there’s the signatures of the voter, the witness addresses, you know you have to put a voter number on them, mark them in the poll book,” La Crosse County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said. “So, there’s just as much work to do, if not more, processing these absentees.”

Dankmeyer says it’s crucial there are enough poll workers this time around.

“You still need as many people working the polls as if you were having to vote in-person because of all the steps that are necessary to process those absentee ballots,” Dankmeyer said.

Tens of thousands ballots have already come in.

“We’ve had over 16,600 absentee ballots issued in La Crosse County,” Dankmeyer said. “For a typical August election, that’s usually the number of voters we expect to vote.”

“You’re talking probably triple absentee ballots, if not more than what you’re used to,” Nelson said.

Nelson will have a long day ahead of her when the polls open.

“At 7 a.m., and we’ll probably be there ’till 9 o’clock at night when we get everything closed down and everything,” she said. “It’s not too difficult as long as everybody’s willing to do their part.”

Dankmeyer also says safety precautions, including mask wearing and social distancing, will be required for poll workers.

If you would like to be a poll worker, you must be at least 18 years old and living in the U.S. But if you are on the ballot, you cannot work the polls.

For more information, just visit the Wisconsin Elections Commission website.