WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Williamson County is raising the pay for people working at the polls so that it can attract more applicants and increase staffing during the upcoming election.
Chris Davis, the county’s elections administrator, said the county commissioners agreed Tuesday to increase hourly wages for this position by $3. He said clerks will now make $13 per hour, while judges will earn $15 per hour.
Davis said his office needs a minimum of 600 poll workers on Election Day alone because it’s expecting higher turnout due to the presidential race. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is also making it more difficult to find poll workers since many of the county’s regular workers are considered most at risk for complications, Davis added. Anyone interested in applying to work at the polls can visit the Williamson County elections website.
“We hope that increase in hourly wage will aid us in filling in those gaps that we see across the board,” Davis said during a virtual news conference with reporters.
He also said Williamson County has so far received more than 27,000 requests for ballot-by-mail, which is a record amount. He expects his office to have its first “mail drop” to send out some ballots on Oct. 1.
Because of a governor’s order, Davis said people can now submit the ballots they receive by mail by walking them into the Williamson County Elections Department’s office, located at 301 SE Inner Loop, Suite. 104 in Georgetown. He said people can do so as soon as they receive the ballot and complete it. He noted voters will have to present a photo ID and sign if they submit a ballot in person this way.
Voters will have until Oct. 5 to register to vote in the Nov. election, Davis explained. The Williamson County Elections Department will remain open until midnight that day so that it can accept as many voter registration applications as possible.
Davis said the county currently has more than 370,000 registered voters, a number that only keeps climbing every day.
“This election of course is probably going to be the largest one that anyone’s ever seen in our county at least,” Davis said. “We can tell that by the number or registered voters. We can tell that by the number of applications we’ve currently received for ballot by mail.”
The extended early voting period will last from Oct. 13 to Oct. 30. Polling locations during that 18-day period will stay open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, on the two Sundays, the hours will be 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Davis said he is encouraging people to cast their ballots during the early voting period because of the expanded time frame as well as concerns that voters may have surrounding COVID-19. He pointed out the law does not require people to wear masks at the county’s polling locations, though voters are obviously encouraged to do so to lower the risk of exposure for themselves and poll workers alike.
Davis said poll workers, however, will have to wear a mask and a face shield during their shifts. The county will also place plastic shields at the check-in areas as well as create distancing in lines and offer curbside voting.
At their meeting Tuesday, county commissioners approved the 57 locations that will serve as voting centers in Williamson County on Election Day. Voters will be able to check online to see the wait times at the various polling sites.
“We’re still going to see long lines on Election Day because it’s a presidential election,” Davis told reporters.