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Election workers get a raise

Absentee voting skyrockets

As election officials struggle to recruit poll workers, those turning out today will receive a substantial raise.

Webster County Supervisors approved a 25% increase in pay for poll workers Tuesday, from $12 to $15 an hour, as the county works with just a fraction of the workers it usually has to process in-person voting and absentee ballots.

Webster County Auditor Doreen Pliner said that in a typical primary, the county will have close to 100 poll workers and approximately 28 people processing absentee ballots. This year, the county will have about 26 people working at the polls in just three county locations, and 16 helping count absentee ballots.

That decline is due in part to the fact that a majority of poll workers are older retirees vulnerable to COVID-19. Many have chosen to stay home this year.

Despite a fraction of the usual force, the auditor’s office will be processing an unusually high voter turnout for a primary. The county and Secretary of State’s office has seen substantial success in encouraging absentee voting this year with returns that make 2018 turnout pale in comparison.

In 2018, 3,308 people voted, 432 of whom voted absentee. In 2016, just over 2,000 voted, about 10% of whom were absentee.

As of Monday, 4,275 absentee ballots were returned — the vast majority (83%) of the ballots that were requested by forms sent to registered voters earlier this year. Before election day has even started, absentee voting alone constituted a 30% increase over the voter turnout rate from 2018.

Pliner said the new trend could establish a norm for voting going forward if difficult circumstances continue.

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