As of Friday afternoon, Mandi Smith, Forsyth County's director of voter registrations and elections, said poll workers were still processing mail-in ballots on Friday afternoon after receiving a much higher amount, more than 21,000, than they normally do.
“As of Friday afternoon, we are still processing and working toward opening and scanning and tabulating absentee ballots,” Smith said. “At this point, they have scanned basically everything from at least a couple of days prior to what we received right before election day and on election day.”
Voting by-mail was heavily promoted in light of COVID-19 but takes longer to process than in-person voting.
Smith said on Friday afternoon that poll workers were verifying signatures, making sure voters only voted once, updating the statewide database and would start opening ballots on Monday.
The Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections is certifying the election results at a meeting on Tuesday morning, and Smith said all election results would be final then.
For election day voting, which saw issues and lines across the state, Smith said in Forsyth County, “everyone who chose to come vote on election day was able to vote” but there were lines usually lasting 30-45 minutes, with some taking up to an hour or hour and a half during peak times.
“Overall, voting went well on Tuesday in Forsyth County,” she said. “It was not unique to us; all counties had challenges. We were not alone in that respect, and we had challenges as well. We certainly had lines that we're not necessarily as used to in Forsyth County, but in order to maintain social distancing, in order to make sure the machine was cleaned before each voter, that led to lines.”
With the primary done, the next step in the election process is a runoff on Aug. 11 for races where no candidate received at least 50% of the vote plus one vote and the Nov. 3 general election.
Smith said once they were done counting votes from Tuesday's election, they would evaluate what worked and what didn't.
“First, we’re going to get finished with this election, we're going to get through this one,” Smith said, “then once we're done with this one, we'll be able to take a step back and evaluate what went right and capitalize on that and what we can do better in the future and what we learned from now and how we can do it differently.”
One issue in Forsyth and other counties was a shortage of poll workers since many of them fall into high-risk categories.
“With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had many poll workers who were not able to continue to be poll workers for this election,” Smith said. “The majority of our poll workers are in the high-risk categories that we learned with COVID-19 that needed to shelter in place and needed to not be around a lot of people, so a lot of our folks were not able to come out, and even weeks and weeks and weeks ago we were still good. Then as the weeks wore on, more and more people decided they couldn't do it and we understand that, we appreciate that.”
Smith said with fewer workers, County Manager Eric Johnson put a call out to other Forsyth
County and Forsyth County Schools employees.
“We managed to get probably a little over 50 poll workers within probably less than a week of the election,” Smith said. “I conducted two poll worker trainings, actually, the day before the elections, virtual training. Never would we have thought that's what we would be doing, but we did, and it worked.”
The county is still looking for more poll workers for the remaining elections, and Smith said anyone interested could email firstname.lastname@example.org with their name and some contact information, and online at Forsythco.com.