• By Michelle Bobadilla
  • Posted Friday, March 5, 2021

State Board Receives National Award for 2020 Poll Worker Recruitment Efforts

Raleigh, N.C. – The State Board of Elections on Thursday received a 2020 Clearinghouse Award for Best Practices in Recruiting, Retaining and Training Poll Workers. The State Board won the national award for its Democracy Heroes campaign, which recruited nearly 60,000 election workers across the state for the 2020 general election.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced the recipients of the 2020 Clearinghouse Awards, also known as the “Clearie” Awards, for best practices in election administration. Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, thanked the EAC and said the credit for the award goes to all North Carolinians who value accessible, safe, secure, and transparent elections and worked at voting sites during the pandemic.

“The Democracy Heroes program would not have been successful without the tens of thousands of North Carolinians who pledged to work in the 2020 election,” Brinson Bell said. “We plan to continue this effort, so the Democracy Heroes program will ensure that counties have the election workers they need for years to come.” See the State Board’s Clearies submission here: https://www.eac.gov/sites/default/files/clearinghouseawards/2020/NC_State_Board_of_Elections_Poll_Worker.pdf. Two North Carolina counties – Durham and Wake – also won 2020 Clearies. Durham County won for Outstanding Innovations in Elections for an early voting wait-time tracker. Wake County also received an award for Recruiting, Retaining and Training Poll Workers.

Democracy Heroes

By forging community partnerships and piggybacking off intense public interest in the 2020 elections, the State Board recruited more than 57,000 individuals to help staff early voting sites and Election Day precincts, far exceeding the need for poll workers during the pandemic. “The campaign was very successful – not a single county reported a poll worker shortage and many registered long lists of reserves for future elections,” wrote the EAC in its write-up about the award. A record of more than 5.5 million North Carolinians cast a ballot in the 2020 general election. Health officials have said they are not aware of any COVID-19 spread linked to voting in the state. Like many states, in early 2020, the State Board prepared for a possible poll worker shortage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The average age of poll workers is about 65 years old. This age group faces a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. As part of the Democracy Heroes effort, the State Board partnered with the University of North Carolina System, the North Carolina Community College System, the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets, the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources and other organizations. “Thank you to each individual and organization who assisted the State Board in ensuring there were enough election workers for the general election,” Brinson Bell said. “This election would not have happened without your dedication to democracy.”

The EAC received 137 Clearie submissions, more than tripling the 2019 submissions. “The number of Clearie submissions highlights that even though this was a challenging election year, officials continue to modernize and develop programming that will serve as helpful best practices for the coming years,” said EAC Chairman Donald Palmer. Said EAC Commissioner and 2020 Chairman, Ben Hovland: “During an incredibly challenging year, election officials rose to the occasion by developing new, innovative solutions to serve voters. As a result of their creativity and perseverance, millions of voters had their voices heard in extremely well-run elections with record turnout.” Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), the EAC is a clearinghouse for election administration information. The EAC launched the Clearies in 2016 to promote best practices in elections and celebrate accomplishments of election officials.

Award categories include innovation in election administration; improving accessibility for voters with disabilities; best practices in recruiting, training, and retaining poll workers; and creative and original “I Voted” sticker design. The EAC also announced a new category this year for innovation in election cybersecurity and technology. Winners were selected by two independent panels of election officials from the EAC’s advisory boards. Submissions were judged on innovation, sustainability, outreach efforts, cost-effectiveness, replicability, and positive results. More information about each awardee is available on the EAC website. See the EAC press release here: https://www.eac.gov/news/2021/03/04/us-election-assistance-commission-announces-winners-2020-clearinghouse-awards.

The Forsyth County Board of Elections would like to thank our poll workers once again, for the incredible participation and hard work in the November 3, 2020, General Election.

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