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Candidate commentary

Challender: New workers needed for successful elections during pandemic

After my six years' experience with over 15 elections under my belt, one thing is glaringly clear: No election is ever the same.

Why would elections differ so greatly? There are many reasons, including legislative changes, process improvements, technology upgrades, personnel changes, and now, a pandemic.

Elections are complex. A successful election requires foresight, planning and knowledge of the process.

Each county in Arizona is given options as to how their election is administered. In Pima County, there are two divisions: Voter Registration and Elections. Voter Registration along with early voting is managed by the Pima County Recorder's Office. Election Day voting at a polling location, emergency voting, and all tabulations are controlled by the Department of Elections, under the Board of Supervisors.

Sound confusing? Not really. Each department understands their roles and responsibilities. This bifurcated system allows for additional accountabilities.

This system works well in Pima County. The election process is safe, secure, and trusted by hundreds of thousands of voters. This system also allows for flexibility, which is what is needed in times of great change, like with this year's pandemic.

The Cares Act offers additional funding for personal protective equipment, which is just the beginning of the safeguards that are needed to protect the voters of Pima County. But one essential part of the equation is missing — people.

Eighty percent of Pima County voters choose to vote by mail. It is probably a safe bet this number will be higher in the primary and general elections. That still leaves 15-20 percent of the voters who will be going to their polling locations on August 4 and November 3, 2020.

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So, what do I mean by "people"?

Both the Recorder's Office and Department of Elections need elections workers. Typically, these jobs are filled by temporary workers who are over 65 years old. The COVID-19 numbers do not lie. This demographic has a much higher risk of dying if infected with the virus. That is the harsh reality that we face this coming election. More early voting site workers and poll workers are needed who have a lower fatality rate and who can contribute their time to this critical task.

Ouch! I know that sounds harsh and could even be construed as age discrimination. I am sorry. I am not an alarmist by nature, but this is a time when we need to look at the facts, believe in the science, and step up and do what we can do to protect our voting rights.

We need young, healthy people to help with elections. There are endless opportunities. In my six years at the Recorder's Office, there has not been one year when I have thought "We have enough people." Not. One. Year.

But the 2020 election is different and the need even more urgent.

My plea: Call the Pima County Department of Elections or the Pima County Recorder's Office and ask what you can do, how you can help. You talented, technology-savvy young people: Here's your chance to get involved in elections and help solve a serious county-wide problem in this time of pandemic. Act now and call!

Pima County Recorder's Office: 520-724-4330

Pima County Dept. of Elections: 520-724-6830

Kim Challender is a Democratic candidate for Pima County recorder.

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