Sunday, September 7, 2008

Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano counties looking for poll workers

In the February primary, Contra Costa's voting chief nearly had to work a polling station because volunteers were so scarce.

Registrar of Voters Steve Weir and his counterparts in Alameda and Solano counties are hoping to avoid such a dilemma during the Nov. 4 presidential election, which promises to have a high turnout.

"We feel very confident that we will have properly trained and staffed poll sites and that we will work to identify those sites that may need additional resources," said Weir, predicting a record 85 percent turnout in his county.

Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano counties need volunteers to operate their polling stations.

Contra Costa, with 615 polling stations, needs about 150 more volunteers to work as inspectors, clerks and other jobs. Volunteers are needed in Oakley, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Alamo, Danville, San Ramon and El Cerrito.

In February, Weir attended an emergency class the night before the election because of low volunteer numbers. Had one person called in sick, Weir would have had to report to a precinct rather than oversee the election.

"You don't want to put the top guy out in the field unless it's absolutely necessary," he said.

Alameda, with its 831 polling places, needs to recruit more than 4,000 poll workers.

"We could really use the help of registered Alameda County voters to help run our polling places. Poll workers really are the key to having a successful election," Advertisementsaid Dave Macdonald, Alameda registrar of voters.

In Solano, the elections office is hoping to find 690 volunteers to run the 138 precincts.

"We expect a big turnout," said Lindsey McWilliams, Solano's assistant registrar of voters. "For people to keep sane, we're hoping to get a lot of help."

Poll workers in all three counties can earn from a $75 to $180 stipend, including bonuses for error-free provisional ballots and balanced rosters.

Contra Costa and Alameda counties have student poll worker programs.

Once they have the volunteers, registrars of voters attempt to place a balanced number of Republicans and Democrats at each poll station out of fairness, Weir said.

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