St. Lawrence County Board of Elections employees work in teams of two to open absentee ballots. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

County elections commissioners in St. Lawrence County are worried that they may see a drop in participation from poll workers larger than usual amid concerns about COVID-19.

“We’re recruiting inspectors all the time and we’re faced with a double whammy this year,” St. Lawrence County Republican Election Commissioner Thomas A. Nichols said.

In last month’s primary election, Mr. Nichols said that about 100 of St. Lawrence County’s 375 trained election inspectors turned down offers to staff the polls. As a result, some polling sites had to be combined.

“There’s people who weren’t comfortable due to COVID-19 that were not yet ready to go out into the public,” St. Lawrence County Democratic Election Commissioner Jennie H. Bacon said.

But Mr. Nichols added that the general election in November is an all-hands-on-deck, especially with this year being a presidential election. He says the county uses about 320 inspectors.

“The need is always constant. Not even talking about COVID or a pandemic. We needed election inspectors before that happened. It’s the need throughout the state, not just St. Lawrence County.”

Both commissioners said the county is always trying to recruit new poll workers through a variety of advertisements and trying to spread information through word of mouth. Their biggest selling point is that election inspectors are not volunteers, they are paid $250 for the day.

Despite the pay, both Mr. Nichols and Ms. Bacon agree that losing election inspectors is natural every year, especially since many are older in age and just naturally decide to stop.

“We see the work of the inspector the cornerstone of our entire Democracy,” Mr. Nichols said. “That these folks are truly on the front lines of making sure that the electoral franchise is protected for all voters.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(1) comment


Make masks MANDATORY for voters. No ifs, ands, or buts. This may ease the concerns of election inspectors some anyway.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.