POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – National reports of poll workers being threatened and harassed has caused some people to feel skittish about working on election day in Polk County, the supervisor of elections said.
“One of the things that we’re up against, I think, there’s a little fear factor that people are concerned that things are getting so polarized and nasty in the political environment,” Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards explained.
When primary voters cast their ballots on Aug. 23, the county needs 1,000 workers at the polls. According to Edwards, she still needs 100 more.
“Even longtime election workers – or new election workers – see a headline or a splash of a story that perhaps there’s some type of a threat and I think it’s discouraging. It probably makes them a little fearful, understandably,” she said.
Zelma Harris has worked at the polls for nearly seven years. She will be there again this year.
“I’ve never encountered anything but people who are pleasant, people who are excited to vote. They’re there because that’s what they want to do. They’ve never harassed me or my staff,” she said.
Edwards said she believes reports of poll worker abuse are overblown.
“I want to encourage any members of our community who want to kind of see behind the curtain and learn a little more about our democracy, this is an excellent opportunity,” she said.
You can learn more about becoming a poll worker on the Polk County elections website.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress announced two election-related bills this week aimed, in part, at protecting workers at the poll.
“It would enhance current penalties for violent threats against election workers and increase the maximum penalties for tampering with voting systems,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.