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SWFL elections supervisors prepare for poll worker shortages

Polling locations in Southwest Florida are expecting a shortage of workers because of COVID-19. More people are expected to mail in their vote, so we wanted to know what will happen when people want to vote in person.

Southwest Florida election officials we spoke to are actively preparing for poll worker shortages, but they are confident in running elections in their jurisdictions. And there are community members who said they will step in to help curb some of the shortages.

When duty calls, the president of the Naples-North Rotary Club answers.

“When there’s a job to be done, we just roll up our sleeves and just do it,” said, Steve Matteau, the president of Naples-North Rotary Club.

Naples-North Rotary Club will not give up on its duty to run local poll stations.

“I don’t think it crossed anybody’s mind to not do it,” Rotary member Stoneburner said. “Honestly, it’s just something that we do.”

But too many others will not be back at their usual polling locations for the August primary or the November general election.

Tommy Doyle, the Lee County supervisor of elections, told us he’s down 1,000 volunteers.

“So we reduced our polling locations from 125 to around 96,” Doyle said. “That means it’s possible, or I should say, if you come to the polls, bring patience with you because it’s going to create wait times.”

Jennifer Edwards, the Collier County supervisor of elections, said she will not have to close any polling places because so many more voters will cast their ballots by mail.

“We anticipate the election day polling sites we’ll see less voters coming out to vote,” Edwards said. “I think that our poll workers that will be out there working, they’ll be able to handle it.”

At the next Fort Myers City Council meeting, Tommy Doyle said he will ask the city to adopt a policy encouraging and allowing city employees to volunteer as poll workers to help reduce the shortage.

Another way to reduce those lines is to take advantage of early voting. For next month’s primary, early voting begins Aug. 8.

“Every supervisor in Florida are pushing vote by mail … because they want to increase that to keep people out of the polls,” Edwards explained.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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