About 1,000 poll workers needed in Douglas County, many will be drafted

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 5:05 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - There have been discussions as to whether or not poll workers are essential and should qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Douglas County officials say they have no control over who is on the list to be vaccinated.

“They are not on our list anywhere and that as you say, comes from probably even higher than the state. So they’re not on the list at this time to be,” said Phil Rooney from Douglas County Health Department.

Poll workers might not be on the list but Douglas County Election Commissioner Brian Kruse says they will need about 1,000 workers for the upcoming Omaha city primary and some of those poll workers will be drafted or picked at random to work.

“The law says that once you’re drafted you need to work four elections for us. There’s really no exemption, I believe if you’re over 70 you can opt-out,” said Kruse.

“We do see generally poll workers may be senior citizens so they should have been vaccinated already or at least they’ve had an excellent opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Rooney.

Election officials would like to see more young people working the polls but they say no matter who is there, young, old, volunteer, or drafted, the county will take all necessary steps to keep everyone safe.

“We’re providing hand sanitizer, N95 masks for poll workers. We’ll have masks available for voters when they come, we’ll have face shields if poll workers want that. We’re pretty confident in our system in both May and November. There were no transmissions of the virus we were made aware of, either poll workers or voters,” said Kruse.

Kruse says they will work with those citizens who are drafted to work the polls who have a valid reason to opt-out.

“But yet, we do need those draftees to do their civic duty to help us make these elections happen,” said Kruse.

Poll workers in Douglas County are paid for training and for the time worked at the polls. Also, the poll workers will receive paid lunch and dinner breaks.

Kruse says right now, they are in good shape as far as having enough workers for the April 6 primary.

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