Many Central Texas counties fully staffed for election despite rise in threats against workers
A rise in threats to poll workers following the 2020 presidential election has many fearing a shortage of people to help out in this year’s elections. But in Central Texas, many counties were on track to meet their hiring goals by the start of early voting.
Hays, Bastrop, Burnet, Williamson and Caldwell counties all said they had no trouble hiring enough poll workers. Kristin Miles, the Bastrop County elections administrator, said polling locations there have been fully staffed for weeks.
“We anticipate that we may have some vacancies occur," she said, "but we do have a list of backup workers that we are preparing currently, and I think we have a pretty substantial number of people on that list."
Travis County Clerk Rebecca Guerrero said an increase in pay from $15 to $20 per hour made it easier to hire poll workers.
"A lot of people were just flooding [in], ready to work. So, it's been amazing," she said.
Despite a smooth hiring process, Travis County said it is preparing poll workers for threats of violence that may occur. All poll workers receive de-escalation training, including how to listen to voter concerns and read body language to better communicate before a confrontation becomes violent.
"These are things to look out for so that way they know how to be able to communicate more effectively to be able to de-escalate any of those situations," Guerrero said.
A report from a U.S. House committee released in August details some of the threats election workers have received since the 2020 election. In one Texas case, a social media post called for an election administrator's public hanging and harm to their children.
West of Austin, in Gillespie County, two full-time election workers quit over the summer following threats. Officials did not respond to a request to discuss their staffing ahead of the election.