Douglas County on the hunt for poll workers 3/10/22

Members present: Myesha Good (chair), Maurice Hurry (vice-chair), Robert Proctor, Kevin Evans, Kelly Cobb

Director: Milton Kidd

Qualifying information and board membership—M. Kidd stated that a spouse of board member Kelly Cobb had qualified to run for an office. He said state law does not allow family members of candidates to serve on election boards. He said he will be formally notifying the Republican Party about the need to replace her on the board. Cobb asked when she will receive documentation showing there is a conflict of interest. Kidd replied he will be sending her a letter after qualifying ends and she will also get an email copy by Monday. R. Proctor asked if she can recluse herself from certifying elections in which her husband is a candidate. Kidd said he had checked with the state elections division, and they confirmed she would have to leave the board. He said there was a precedent where a board member had qualified for office and had to step down from the elections board. 

Office operations

  1. Staff reported they are recruiting poll workers and have an urgent need for poll managers. The staffer said workers will be trained on the process, using the equipment, and the applicable law. She gave the website for applying. 
  2. Kidd reported qualifying ends March 11 at noon. They will post qualifying candidates on the website on March 14. He also said voters can apply for absentee ballots now. They will be sent out on or after April 25. 
  3. A staff person reported redistricting has been completed for Douglas County. She gave a presentation on the process for preparing the new maps. 
  4. Request to ask for funds—Kidd stated that recruiting and retaining qualified elections office staff is a nationwide problem. He noted one fifth of current workers have indicated in surveys they will be leaving before the 2024 elections. He reported the county has unspent funds available for which county departments can submit proposals. He asked the board for permission to submit a proposal with two parts: One, because staff roles have expanded over the past few years, he would like to request that the county review their duties and compensation, and if warranted, new funds would be used to cover pay increases; two, that a new position, administrative officer, be created that would be responsible for the budget, education and training, reporting to SOS, records management, and managing the ethics forms that candidates have to submit to the elections office.

The chair commended the staff for taking on extra responsibilities over the years and asked for a motion. K. Evans moved that staff proceed with the request. M. Hurry seconded the motion. In the discussion, Proctor asked if the position would be permanent. Kidd said yes it would be. Proctor asked if funds would be available to cover the increase spending in future years. Kidd replied they should be, but the office has to submit a budget for each year. Proctor asked about the pay level for the new position. Kidd said it would probably be about $40,000. Kelly asked if they had thought about transferring an employee from a department in which the workload has decreased. Kidd replied the new position would require expertise in elections procedure and law, though he added that he wouldn’t object to a transfer. The board voted 4 to 1 (Kelly opposed) to allow staff to submit a proposal to the county commissioners. 

Old business

  1. Kidd reported that staff will be receiving training on the new registration and voter information system, GARVIS, which will go live March 24.
  2. Kidd also reported that he and staff will be attending the state association of voting and registration officials on March 20-23.

New business 

  1. Kidd said the Department of Justice had asked him to give a deposition on the effects of SB 202. He said he wanted board approval before agreeing to give a deposition. Proctor asked if it would be used in the federal lawsuit against the state. Kidd said it would be. Cobb asked for the date of the deposition. Kidd replied he hasn’t agreed to give one; he asking for the board’s permission to do so. The chair asked for a motion. None was made. She said that indicates the board has not given its permission.
  2. HB 1464—Kidd testified on HB 1464 in a committee meeting at the General Assembly. He raised two objections. The first regarded a provision restricting the use of grant funds. This provision would have an adverse effect on the Douglas County elections board operations. If passed, he asked that the legislature provide funds to replace the grants. The second related to a provision making the GBI responsible for investigating elections cases, which had been the sole responsibility of the Secretary of State’s elections division. He testified this would have a chilling effect on poll workers and staff, exacerbating efforts to recruit and fill these positions. 

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*These meeting notes were typed and prepared by a volunteer of NGP Peanut Gallery

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