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Poll worker Evan Setter, of Woodstock, helps a voter at the First Baptist Woodstock voting precinct on Election Day, 2016.

Cherokee County elections officials have hired more than 200 new poll workers to be ready for the Nov. 3 General Election, but wouldn’t mind having more.

The Cherokee County Office of Elections and Voter Registration needs 450 to 500 trained poll workers for election day, Anne Dover, community outreach coordinator said Monday.

“Right now we have 206 new people signed up and 268 returning workers. I wouldn’t mind having about 100-150 more people to sign up,” Dover said Monday.

Poll workers must complete a four-hour training session this month. On election day, the workers earn $140.

Training dates for Cherokee County poll workers are Sept. 23, 24, 25 and 29, Dover said. Anyone interested in working at the polls on election day can sign up online at: https://securevotega.com/pollworker-signup/. Dover said an additional training session could be held in October, if needed.

In many counties, including Cherokee, the ongoing novel coronavirus has cut deeply into the pool of poll workers, because many people who have worked elections previously are older and more at risk from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. So, many trained poll workers have chosen not to work during the pandemic, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said last week.

The pandemic also led many voters to avoid going to the polls for the June 9 primary, which was postponed from May because of the virus.

Located at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov, the website allows users to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them, which they can then return by mail or place in one of the drop-off boxes that were installed across the state ahead of the June primaries.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging, Georgians voted by mail in record numbers in June and are expected to do so again in November. In some areas of the state, many of those who waited to vote in person in June were forced to wait in long, socially distanced lines that in some cases took hours.

Raffensperger’s office sent request forms for absentee ballots to every registered voter in Georgia ahead of the primaries. But he decided not to do that ahead of the November election after fellow Republicans, including House Speaker David Ralston, complained the practice could encourage fraud.

The secretary of state responded by developing the website to make it easy for Georgians who want to vote through the mail to request an absentee ballot.

The agency also expects to realize huge savings by using the website rather than paying the postage to mail absentee ballot request forms to about 7 million registered voters.

When a voter clicks on the website, he or she is prompted to supply personal data including name, date of birth and home county. The data then goes to the appropriate county elections office, which sends out the absentee ballot.

The new system has been put through several weeks of testing by cybersecurity experts working with the secretary of state’s office.

Voters who wish to cast absentee ballots are being asked not to procrastinate. The U.S. Postal Service is asking voters to allow 15 days for delivery each way.

The voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. Voters can check their registration status online at mvp.sos.ga.gov.

All registered voters in Georgia were mailed absentee ballot request forms in response to concerns about the health risk of in-person voting during the pandemic. That won’t happen for the General Election, but the state did open an online portal that any voter can use to request an absentee ballot.

Georgia voters can start mailing in their absentee ballots on Sept. 15. Early voting for the Nov. 3 election begins on Oct. 12.

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Capitol Beat News Service reporters Beau Evans and Dave Williams contributed to this report.

Managing Editor

Gary Tanner is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Ledger-News and Cherokee Life magazine. He has been working as a journalist since 1985.

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