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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Western NC Holds GOP Primary Runoff With Fewer Poll Workers, Voting Locations

Erik (HASH) Hersman

Tuesday’s Republican primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District is taking place with fewer poll workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. The district covers 17 of North Carolina’s western counties. 

While election officials have seen a higher number of requested absentee ballots, they are having trouble finding poll workers to help those who vote in person. Corinne Duncan is Director of Election Services for Buncombe County, which includes Asheville. She said the county has had trouble recruiting poll workers for this election, because they're often older and at high-risk for the coronavirus.

"It’s difficult to ask them to come in and work around a bunch of people," Duncan said. "We have put in place all of the recommended preparation, both for voters and for the poll workers, but it’s still a stress for people."

Duncan noted poll workers had called out on Election Day to say they wouldn’t show up. Election Services had 240 poll workers in place for Tuesday's election, compared to the 327 workers Buncombe County had for a similar primary runoff in 2012. For the full primary election in 2018, the county had 364 poll workers. The county has also cut the number of voting locations from 80 to 75 due to coronavirus concerns.

Looking ahead to November, Duncan is worried she won’t have enough poll workers to staff a full election, which can take more than 500 people to run properly. She is also worried about having enough election officials to process an expected flood of absentee ballots if there’s a coronavirus spike in the fall.

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Michael Falero is a radio reporter, currently covering voting and the 2020 election. He previously covered environment and energy for WFAE. Before joining WFAE in 2019, Michael worked as a producer for a number of local news podcasts based in Charlotte and Boston. He's a graduate of the Transom Story Workshop intensive on Cape Cod and UNC Chapel Hill.