350 election workers still needed in Lake County amid spread of COVID-19

Many of the volunteers are in high-risk category, Supervisor of Elections says

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – Lake County Supervisor of Elections Alan Hays said his office is spending thousands of dollars to protect election workers during this year's primary and general elections.

Hays showed News 6 all of the personal protective equipment he is purchased so far is stored in the elections office warehouse.

"We have already in house hand sanitizer, we have gloves, we have masks, we have face shields for our election workers in the August primary," Hays said.

Hays said his team purchased the PPE as they prepare for this year's elections during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hays said they are already contacting polling places to make sure they are available. He said they are running into a problem staffing the voting sites.

He said they are short 350 election workers to staff the 96 election day polling sites and 11 early voting sites.

Hays said many of the volunteers are in the high-risk category and they don’t want to risk exposure. Hays said they are working on plans to make sure the polling sites are properly staffed with trained workers.

“We’re going to be prepared as if the worse was still happening and just praying for the best to be in place at that time,” Hays said.

Hays said they are also seeing an uptick in a vote by mail requests. His office reports they have received almost 26,000 requests, which is about a 5% increase compared to previous elections.

Hays said they expanded their vote by mailroom at the elections office to keep the mail-in ballots secure before they are counted.

“We expect the utilization of the number to go up this year, but we are prepared. We have the signature verification process in place. We know exactly how to run that,” he said.

The Florida Supervisors of Elections sent Gov. Ron DeSantis a letter last month saying the state is not in a position to conduct an all-mail ballot election this year. The organization is urging the governor to take action quickly to make sure elections run smoothly and safely.

“One of the things we have asked the governor for, is permission to consolidate polling places on election day, if that’s necessary, due to lack of staffing,” Hays said.

The Lake County Supervisor of Elections reopened to the public on Wednesday. Hays said they have new safety measures in place, including installing plexiglass at the front counter.

Hays said they are taking every precaution to make sure elections are safe and your vote is counted.

"The pandemic may require us to invest more time. It certainly is going to require us to invest more money, but under no circumstances are we going to compromise the accuracy of this election," Hays said.

Hays said voters who don’t want to visit the office can update their voting record, address, or registration online or by calling 352-343-9734.

He said voters casting ballots by mail should also make sure their signatures are updated.

Hays adds voters are encouraged to vote early to avoid large crowds on election day.

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