Clarion polling place

While many will turn to mail-in ballots to cast their picks in the general election in November, plenty of voters are still expected exercise their vote the old-fashioned way — by standing in line at their voting precincts. 

Voting in-person at a precinct has never been more perilous, though, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the country. And it's likely even more perilous for poll workers, many of whom would fall into the most vulnerable age group for serious Covid-19 illness — those 65 and older.

"The average poll worker is in their 70s," said Lee County Elections Manager Robert Garris. "We have some exceptions to that, but most of our typical poll workers are in the at-risk age."

 The risk to the elderly is easily gleaned from looking at Covid-19 case characteristics in the state. As of Tuesday, those 65 or older account for 16.4 percent of Alabama's  roughly 80,000 confirmed cases, but a staggering 78 percent of the state's 1,446 deaths attributed to Covid-19. 

As a result, those turning out to vote in-person this fall may see plenty of new — and younger — faces, as Garris noted that this year, more than ever, there is a need for youth to work the polls.

Garris said that it is typically hard to get younger voters to carve out 12 to 14 hours of their day to work the polls, but the time has never been more opportune for younger voters to assist in the election process. 

"Not just during this time, but during all elections we would encourage younger voters to at least apply," said Garris.

Election day for poll workers typically begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. The minimum age required to serve as a poll worker is 16, if the high school juniors or seniors are residents in the county.

In order to start the process of becoming a poll worker, one simply needs to go to the website Lee County's website and print out the PDF application found there. 

To qualify, you must be registered to vote in Lee County, attend one two-hour training course, and not be directly related to a candidate. 

Once your application is turned in, you will be notified by mail if selected to serve as a poll worker. You will be compensated $25 for your two-hour training period. For election day, inspectors are paid $100, while clerks make $75.

To apply to be a poll worker, go to leeco.us and search for probate judge under the government tab, then select elections.

You may also call the Probate Office to request an application at 334-737-3671.

You can also stop by the Lee County Courthouse, located at 215 S. 9th St. in Opelika, to fill out an in-person application. The courthouse is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Those worried about voting in public in the midst of a pandemic can cast an absentee ballot, as Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill expanded access to any voter in the general election who "determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place. 

"Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on election day by casing an absentee ballot," said Merrill in a news release.

Voters can find an absentee ballot application online at www.sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes/voter/absentee-voting or can visit or call their Absentee Election Manager's Office, which is also located in the Lee County Courthouse. If you have questions about absentee ballots, you can call 334-737-3490.

The last day to request an absentee ballot application is Oct. 29. 

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