Polling stations grapple with reduced staff for primaries

Local News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — With primary elections well underway Tuesday morning, Central Illinois’ county clerks are dealing with reduced elections staff amid the COVID-19 threat.

Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said elections are going “extraordinarily well, considering the circumstance we’re in.” He said all polls opened on time and are staffed. They also took precautions in regard to the COVID-19 threat. “Our top priority is to ensure we have a safe, clean and healthy environment. Election workers are sanitizing all surfaces voters would come into contact with regularly.”

As for voter turnout, he said it started at a snail’s pace. However, Gray added turnout started to grow and build as he traveled through the county. Gray said they’ve certainly had some election workers call in sick, and they had to redirect resources to the right polling locations and get backups in place.

“We’ve done very well to make sure every precinct is adequately staffed,” he said. Gray added he was very proud “our election judges stepped up to service voters today in Sangamon County.”

Macon County is also seeing modest voter turnout numbers. County Clerk Josh Tanner said this morning voter turnout was “pretty light.” In preparation, he said they had all voting booths at every polling location sprayed down with sanitizer before the election began today.

Tanner said, “They’re doing the same thing through the day as time permits.”

While very few of their election workers called in sick today, Tanner said they had up to 70 back out for various reasons in the time running up to the election. He said they were either sick or felt like it wasn’t safe for them to work the polls. According to Tanner, they’re down towards the minimum number of election judges required for the election. Tanner did say that all of their polling locations are up.

“There’s obviously some hiccups every election, but so far everything is running pretty smooth,” he said.

Iroquois County Clerk Lisa Fancher said they lost 14 election judges yesterday, “which is a lot.” She is required to have at least three judges at each polling location for the primary election.

“Had any more called in this morning, we might not have been okay,” Fancher said. “All’s well that ends well.”

She added that she was very grateful to the judges that decided to work today, even though they knew there was risk involved, “no matter how slight.”

“We have great judges.”

According to Fancher, turnout this morning was low. She also said they haven’t had a lot of reports from their polling places, as expected.

“The phones have been quiet since voting started at 6 a.m.,” Fancher said. “That’s a good thing.”

Their office sent out disinfectant wipes to all polling places in Iroquois County, she added. They will be wiping down all surfaces and pens periodically.

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