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DECISION 2020: Tulsa County poll workers volunteering in 'unprecedented' numbers

Poll workers participating in "unprecedented" numbers
Posted at 1:05 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 19:37:05-04

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa County Election Board officials told 2 Works for You an "unprecedented" number of volunteers applied to be precinct officials for the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Officials estimated close to 2,000 applications have been submitted since August.

READ MORE: Oklahoma voter registration soars as deadline looms

They said they have processed around 900 applications for poll workers and have 450 alternates on standby to step in.

“I’ve been doing this for so many years. This is what I want to do," Mike Fritts, Tulsa County precinct inspector, said. "I want to give back as so many veterans do and this is just our passion. We love our country.”

Fritts is not new to elections in Tulsa County. This is his fourteenth year volunteering at the polls and Nov. 3 marks his fourth presidential election as a precinct official.

"I expect some strain," Fritts said. "A little more anxiety than we normally have."

Election officials said COVID-19 safety measures are a focal point for in-person voting on Nov. 3. Tulsa Co. Officials said they plan to follow CDC recommendations and equip staff with PPE, ask voters to socially distance, sanitize voting machines and booths, and offer single-use pens.

Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman told 2 Works for You the average age of their poll workers is typically 75 years old.

Fritts told 2 Works for You he'll be at the polls in the face of COVID-19, but said other elderly precinct officials won't be.

“They’re just worried about getting it," Fritts said. “And they say, ‘We can wait. We can postpone our work until next election or the election after that.’”

Freeman said younger volunteers are stepping up to take the place of older poll workers who are the most susceptible to the virus.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, eight of 10 deaths from COVID-19 are adults age 65 and older.

The Tulsa County Election Board will deploy 1,200 precinct officials to polling places across the county on Nov. 3.

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