Florida hit by poll worker shortage, Tampa Bay counties already trying to recruit for November election

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The national poll worker shortage is hitting Florida in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections supervisors in the Tampa Bay area got creative to fill the gap for Tuesday’s primary election, but some are sounding the alarm for the general election.

It’s been a busy few months in Citrus County.

“We’ve been looking high and low, we have had five workers from the clerk of courts come,” said Kari Tedrick, Citrus County’s poll worker coordinator.

“We’ve reached out to substitute teachers,” said Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill.

To fill a poll worker shortage, Gill and her team ran ads, did radio interviews and reached out to the county and state.

Right now, they have 300 workers to man the early-voting sites, just seven shy of the ideal number.

“Even in a normal year, without COVID, we have a lot of cancellations,” said Gill. “We don’t have anybody to replace these dropouts.”

Unlike past years, there’s no safety net for when workers call out.

Gill says, on Tuesday, workers will wear two hats and she expects no problems for the primary.

Meanwhile, in Hillsborough County, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer has also been busy.

“We partnered months ago with the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce,” Latimer said. “We’ve also worked with the county, of course.”

Like Gill, Latimer also got creative. He has the 1,600 poll workers he needs on Tuesday.

But the primary is a smaller-scale election and stakes are much lower than November.

“What are you most worried about when it comes to the general election?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“Poll workers,” said Gill.

Gill says they’ll need more poll workers than ever, partly because of the extra cleaning required by the pandemic.

“Elections are very very important and we’ve got to get them done and we’re going to get them done,” said Gill. “But we need people, citizens and such, to step up.”

If you would like to volunteer to be trained as a poll worker, you can check your county’s supervisor of elections website. Citrus County already has a page set up online where you can learn more about how to become a poll worker.

8 On Your Side wants to make sure that your vote gets counted. We will be closely watching for any and all issues related to casting a ballot.

If you run into any problems, contact investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com or (813) 221-5767.

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