County clerks had a relatively easy go of things during Tuesday's primary election. Few contested races meant a small voter turnout.

Small voter turnout means fewer workers are needed to man the polls.

But come November, in a year that has seen political all-stars campaigning for president and public opinion of government seething, the clerks are predicting a heavy voter turnout — about 80 percent.

That kind of turnout dictates the need for good customer service at the polls by knowledgeable poll workers and managers.

Clerks want to recruit poll workers now so training can begin in September.

Pat Beckstead, elections manager for Davis County, said she had a hard time scraping together enough poll workers for the June primary and was at the "bottom of the barrel" with her alternates — those who step in if regular poll workers cancel.

Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson was in the same boat.

"We got down to where we had about 10 people in reserves," he said.

But June is a difficult time to find poll workers because so many people go on vacation, Beckstead said.

Clerks are also finding that some of their traditional poll workers, senior citizens, have been quitting the election gig because of the new technology in electronic voting machines and laptops for voter check-in.

"I love the group of senior poll workers," Thompson said. "I don't know how we'd survive without the support of dedicated poll workers."

Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen called the poll workers her heroes, because it would be nearly impossible to run an election in Salt Lake County with hundreds of polling locations without people who essentially volunteer to spend their Election Day in school gyms.

Beckstead said she will need more than 1,000 poll workers in Davis County for November's election. Weber County elections administrator Gloria Berrett said she needs about 700. Thompson will need about 800 in Utah County. Washington County Clerk/Auditor Calvin Robison will need about 250. And Salt Lake County needs about 3,000, said Swensen.

Election judges and poll managers may only work in their home counties and must be registered voters. Each county requires training for first-time poll workers — usually about three or four hours — with additional training for managers.

Poll workers can expect a long day on Election Day. They're required to arrive at their polling location at 6 a.m. and must stay until polls close at 8 p.m. Managers, who have additional responsibilities, sometimes work until 11 p.m. depending on the precinct and any issues that may arise.

But working the polls is not without a small benefit. Counties generally provide a stipend for poll workers depending on responsibilities.

In Davis County, the stipend ranges between $150 and $235; in Weber it's between $145 and $175; in Utah County, it's between $120 and $180; in Washington it's $110 to $140; and Salt Lake County pays between $120 and $220.

Clerks are urging businesses to encourage their employees to volunteer as poll workers. In some cases, businesses have given employees a paid vacation day to work the polls or at least a day of administrative leave, Swensen said, in Salt Lake County's "Partners in Democracy" program. Similar programs could show up in other counties this year.

Volunteer contact information

People who want to be poll workers for the election in November must be registered voters and live in the county where they want to work. Here is the contact information for Utah's five most populous counties.

Davis: 801-451-3438

Salt Lake: 801-468-3074 or 3427, or online at www.clerk.slco.org

Utah: 801-851-8128

Washington: 435-634-5712

Weber: 801-399-8036


E-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com