Lee County Probate Judge Bill English is going to need an army of volunteers to pull off the vote on Election Day.
English is in charge of state and federal election voting in Lee County. He’s busy rounding up volunteers, assessing equipment needs and making sure the polls will be properly staffed and ready for record turnout Nov. 3, when Donald Trump and Joe Biden square off atop the ballot for the presidency, and incumbent Doug Jones takes on challenger Tommy Tuberville to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.
The judge declined to speculate about poll turnout, but he sounded reasonably certain that there would be lines at the polls.
“Honestly, people should expect up to an hour wait at polling sites on Election Day,” English told the Opelika-Auburn News.
English has a large corps of veteran poll workers to draw on, including Barbara Vining. She first started working elections after retiring from Fort Benning in 2008. Her late husband, Kenneth, was also a fixture at the polls on voting days.
Vining, 75, helps voters who show up at Smiths Station Junior High School, which English says produces “the second biggest box” in every election.
“It’s pretty busy there every year,” said Vining, who will be chief inspector there Nov. 3.
“This year, the lines could go from there all the way to Opelika,” she joked.
However busy it gets this year, Vining is looking forward to the job.
“I enjoy volunteering. I do a lot of it,” she said. “I love people and the only times I see some of them is when I’m working at the polls. It’s a long day, but it’s rewarding to most of the workers … and I’m doing my civic duty.”
English wants to beef up staffing this year to accommodate the aforementioned crush of voters that many people expect. He’s confident he can spread out his veterans, like Vining, across the county to help the less experienced workers.
Several new volunteers have already applied for training, which will take place the week before the election.
The judge marveled at the commitment of the volunteers who, year-after-year, give up their day to help out, usually starting around 6 a.m. and maybe not getting to go home until after 10 p.m.
“And we're going to pay them a grand total of $125. That's the less than minimum wage,” English sighed.
Absentee ballot applications are available online at https://www.sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes/voter/absentee-voting or at AlabamaVotes.gov. Paper copies are available in the Lee County Courthouse or county satellite offices in Auburn and Smiths Station.
Voters can also call the Absentee Election Office at (334) 737-3490 to request an application and one will be mailed to them. The deadline for applying for an absentee ballot is Thursday, Oct. 29.
The mail-in option is recommended by county elections officials for people worried about long lines on Election Day. The envelopes are bar-coded and can be tracked online. Going this route will also prevent long waits for voters who go to the county courthouse to vote absentee in person, as the election staff is short on space and free hands to help walk-ins.
Completed applications may be delivered in person to the Absentee Election Manager James Majors or sent through the US Mail to PO Box 1616, Opelika, AL 36803. No one can return another person’s application, i.e. a spouse; rules allow only one application per envelope, no exceptions.
The Absentee Election Manager’s Office in the Lee County Courthouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. In addition, it will remain open until 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday throughout October.
Absentee services will also be offered for the next three Saturdays, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at the following sites:
Saturday – Smiths Station City Hall Annex Probate Office, 2336 Lee Road 430;
Oct. 17 – Auburn Courthouse Annex Probate Office, 1240 Mall Pkwy.;
Oct. 24 – Lee County Absentee Election Office, Lee County Courthouse, 215 S Ninth St. in Opelika.
The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is close of business Thursday, Oct. 29. The deadline to postmark or return a ballot in person is close of business Monday, Nov. 2.
Becoming a poll worker
Anyone interest in working the polls should go to https://www.sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes/become-poll-worker.
They should fill out the form and email it to English at email@example.com, or drop it off at the Lee County Courthouse probate office in downtown Opelika.
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