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Application process stymies 200+ would-be poll workers in Gwinnett

By Amanda C. Coyne, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News Talk #atlanta-ga

Lynne Durham has the day off of work on Election Day. Her company has encouraged employees to use the time to go vote or help make voting easier for others. Durham voted early and saw this as an opportunity to become a poll worker in Gwinnett County.

She applied Oct. 4. She got a confirmation email from the county, saying they’d received her application. Weeks passed and she didn’t hear anything more.

Durham is not alone. Hundreds of potential workers, many of whom were spurred to apply after long lines in the June primary, have been left wondering why they never got a call to work the polls on Election Day. For many, it comes down to one form that they were unaware they had to complete in order to get to the next step.

Gwinnett County’s human resources department requires potential poll workers to submit an I-9 form before their application is moved over to the elections department. The I-9 is a tax form that allows the county to pay poll workers. Applicants are supposed to get an automated email after submitting their application with instructions on how to submit the tax form, country spokesman Joe Sorenson said. Nothing in the job posting or application indicates the I-9 is necessary to move forward.

Durham didn’t submit an I-9 because she wasn’t aware it was required. She never got the email that was supposed to tell her — she’s certain because she never deletes an email, and she said she checked her spam folder. It’s not clear what would have prevented her from receiving the message. She didn’t know the county needed the tax form until she reached out to the Gwinnett County Democratic Party.

“It makes me concerned with all the rhetoric we have now with the election, everything coming from the president making it sound like the election is going to be rigged,” said Durham, who identifies as an independent. “I see that people in the same situation as me might be scratching their head and saying ‘What’s going on? Are they trying to slow down the polls?’”

There are more than 200 people in Durham’s situation, said Bianca Keaton, chair of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. Many contacted the organization wondering why they weren’t assigned to a polling place or at least given a response from the county elections department. Early this week, the party submitted a list of 208 people who said they’d applied and never heard back. About 40% did not have an I-9 form filed and 36% did not have an application on file, an elections official said in a reply to the party. About 23% had their application referred to the elections department for potential work.

Charles Conway did submit an I-9 about a month after he applied to be a poll worker. He didn’t get an email telling him to do so when he submitted his application in early September; it took four or five calls to the county human resources department to find out, he said. Once he submitted the form, it took a few more calls to HR to confirm his application had been sent to the elections office. When he didn’t hear from the elections office, he was given an email address — pollofficials@gwinnettcounty.com — that he could send further inquiries to.