Douglas County employees could fill gaps at the polls on Election Day

If municipalities in Douglas County face a shortage of poll workers, county employees will be asked to work in their stead.
Election official Paul Huber sprays down a poll booth at the Lake Nebagamon Community Center Tuesday, April 7. The Douglas County Board this week approved a resolution allowing county employees to work at polling places on Nov. 3 if there is a shortage of poll workers. (File / Superior Telegram)

Douglas County has a worst-case-scenario plan to ensure the public’s right to vote in the Nov. 3 election.

The Douglas County Board adopted a resolution Thursday, Oct. 15, that will allow county employees to work at the polls if needed on Election Day. Under the proposal, county employees would still be paid their regular wages plus whatever the town or village would normally pay for poll workers.

The goal is to create an emergency pool of poll workers in the event those planning to work on Election Day fall ill or are required to quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19.

“It would be a real problem if we can’t fill that hole,” Chairman Mark Liebaert said.

The resolution authorizes County Clerk Sue Sandvick to train employees who volunteer to fill in and put them to work at polling locations anywhere in the county if towns and villages fall short of needed poll workers on Election Day.


Sandvick said the training involves watching a two-hour video produced by the Wisconsin Elections Commission on the internet.

Training would also take place during their normal working hours, Liebaert said. The proposal, recommended by the Wisconsin Counties Association, won’t involve overtime for either training or working at the polls on Election Day, he said.

“I know the city has a bank of workers, and what I’m hearing from the towns and villages is that they’re good with their numbers,” Sandvick said. “We’re just preparing for an emergency pool.”

Sandvick said with the large number of absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 election, municipal clerks are going to need a larger number of poll workers to process those ballots.

After talking to the city clerk, Sandvick said she is more concerned about having enough poll workers outside of Superior, but if county employees are needed, they could work in the city as well.

As of Friday, Oct. 16, nearly two-thirds of absentee ballots mailed to voters — 6,088 ballots — have been returned to municipal clerks in Douglas County, according to Wisconsin Elections Commission statistics.

“There’s no problem right now,” Liebaert said. “There are a couple of towns if something happens there, they’ve only got one extra guy or no extra guy. … We’re doing it in anticipation of a problem.”

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