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Portland Council Delays Decision On Consolidating Polls; Seeks Dozens Of New Poll Workers

Caitlin Troutman
Maine Public

Portland city councilors voted Monday to delay a decision on consolidating the city's 11 voting sites, and to instead launch a last-minute recruiting effort to bring in more poll workers.City Clerk Katherine Jones told councilors on Monday that many poll workers are unwilling to help this year due to fears over potential exposure to COVID-19, making it impossible to adequately staff all 11 voting sites.

But several groups and local legislators protested the consolidation plan, saying that it could lead to voter suppression and put voters more at risk for the virus. Among them was Al Cleveland, with the group Fair Elections Portland.

"That's going to increase the long wait lines. It's going to increase the crowds. And it's going to increase exposure, to people who are going to vote," Cleveland said.

After hours of discussions, councilors agreed to postpone a vote on the plan until next week, and instead launch a last-minute campaign to recruit and more than 120 poll workers, asking City Manager Jon Jennings to immediately begin heavily promoting the poll worker jobs online.

"But certainly, improving our presence on the website, doing more overt outreach, I think all of those things can get done in short order," Jennings said.

The city says more than 9,000 people have already requested absentee ballots for the primary - far more than the number during the 2018 primaries.

The primary election is scheduled for July 14.