/ Modified dec 20, 2023 11:27 a.m.

Cochise County faces a shortage of poll workers ahead of Presidental Preference Election in March

The county elections director predicts the county will need up to 250 poll workers for the March election

cochise county seal The seal of Cochise County.

Cochise County is facing a shortage of poll workers ahead of the Presidential Preference Election in March of next year.

Cochise County Elections Director Tim Mattix told county officials on Tuesday that the county currently has approximately 120 poll workers slated to work the March election.

“And we are anticipating that we would need up to 250," Mattix said. "So, we’re going to focus on recruitment even more than we have been, trying to get the numbers up.”

Mattix recommended changing a county policy that allows county employees to serve as poll workers.

“We do have a county policy that authorizes employees to serve as election poll workers," Mattix said. "And one of the things I was hoping to get direction from the board today is to possibly look at expanding that ...

"I would like direction from the board to be able to have that policy be more that all of the appointed offices shall participate in this, so that if we need to call individuals from departments that they would be available to us," Mattix continued. "That way, we can use county employees more than we have been able to in the past to help out in different roles at the polls and the boards that we need for election day.”

Mattix also said Cochise County should add a shift of troubleshooters at each of the county's vote centers.

"So that each of the vote centers would have a troubleshooter there on-site at 5 a.m. to help them get set up with all of the equipment and make sure everything is running before the polls open," said Mattix. "So that would require additional staff that we would be looking to use for that."

Supervisor Ann English was concerned that a policy change at this point would be “jumping the gun.”

“We want the election to take place. We want to have enough people," English said. "But I’d first like to have a better recruitment from departments and department heads before we think about requiring.”

Cochise County Administrator Richard Karwaczka said that a meeting about the need for more election workers will take place this week.

"And not only make it optional, but see what they can do to create a skeleton crew for that day in their departments to see what options they can get to have people help and assist," said Karwaczka.

Also discussed during Tuesday's work session was Mattix's recommendations to improve wait times at polling locations.

"The officer in charge of elections must establish and approve a specific wait time reduction plan to ensure that voters do not have to wait in lines at the voting locations for more than 30 minutes," said Mattix. "The reason that we're looking at it is because we did have some of our vote centers, back in the November 2022 election, report wait times of greater than 30 minutes."

To cut down wait times, Mattix recommended that the board consider assessing its supplies, equipment, and staffing.

"A number of the inspectors indicated that the propositions that had to be read through could have been a factor for the waits, because quite a few propositions on the ballot in November 2022," said Mattix. "We did have some who reported that they thought the equipment could be improved upon. So a number of them, nine actually, requested an additional express vote machine at the vote centers. And then, some of them also — I believe it was two or three of them — reported they had difficulties getting the equipment up from the morning. So then, that caused a delay kinda from the get-go that then was a little bit tough to recover from as the day went on."

Mattix said that a series of presentations about Election Systems and Software’s equipment will be held in January.

“At these sessions, the Vice President of Security for Election Systems and Software, or ES&S, he will present a demonstration of ES&S’ equipment, give a presentation on the security of the equipment, and then, there will be a question and answer session with the public,” said Mattix.

Those presentations are open to the public and will be held at Cochise College’s Sierra Vista Campus on January 17 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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