The Pima County Elections Department says it's ready for the 2020 elections but would still like to add more poll workers.

Elections Department Director Brad Nelson said that while most people are under the impression that poll workers are unpaid volunteers, some compensation is available.

"They're going to make no less than $155 for the election service that they do on that day," he said.

In typical years, poll workers went through about an hour of in-person training. However, this year hasn't been typical.

Due to coronavirus, the Elections Department is switching to online training, which Nelson said takes about 30 minutes. He said there isn't a firm deadline to contact the department to work in one of the county's polling locations, but there are requirements the department needs to follow when placing workers in the field.

Nelson said the inspector and marshal positions require people from both major parties – Republican and Democrat – on-site.

"A polling place usually has approximately eight people serving as poll workers," he said. "We can't have them all of one party because that just raises the concern that they're going to give the opposite party a hard time to vote."

As of now, Nelson said Green Valley has enough poll workers, although they could use more Republicans. There are other clerk positions at the polls that non-party voters could work as well, he said.

There are about 40 poll locations between Pima Mine Road and the county's southern line.

Despite having enough workers at the moment, Nelson said the department would like to add more to meet challenges should some pull out as the election dates arrive.

He said the economy, COVID-19 or other unknown situations could impact polling stations.

"There's a possibility that some of the people who said they would work for us in Green Valley may have to drop out for one reason or another," Nelson said.

County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said voters enrolling on the Permanent Early Voter List and using mail-in ballots is one way the public could take some of the strain off poll workers.

Nelson agreed that a precinct with more voters on the PEVL and using mail-in ballots would require fewer workers to staff the polls.

On Monday, the Recorder's Office announced that 75 percent of Pima County voters are on the PEVL, and another 6,600 people requested ballots by mail in 2020.

"People that are signing up on the Permanent Early Voting list has always been somewhat high," Rodriguez said. "It's always been very high on the method of how people vote. It's usually about 80 percent of the people who even cast ballots, cast them early."

She said the vast majority of early voters return their ballots by mail and the rest through early voting sites.

Rodriguez said she understands there are a lot of people who still prefer to go to the polls to cast their votes. However, she said people should consider that many poll workers are older people who might not want to work the polls during COVID-19.

Nelson said he would guess about 80 percent of poll workers continually return to work, many of whom are 65 or older. And while the poll workers might want to return, it doesn't mean that might not change down the road.

Nelson said the vast majority of poll workers said they would return if the county provides them with personal protective equipment, which he said the county would supply.

"What I'm hearing is a lot of those poll workers would like to work again because they see their old friends that they worked with and maybe neighbors or things of that nature," he said. "It's their children or grandchildren who are saying, 'Mom, dad, grandma, grampa, maybe you should pass it up this time.'"

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732