Hospitality workers sought to help at polls

Tim Zahner thinks hospitality workers would be perfect at the polls in November.|

Deva Marie Proto, the county’s Registrar of Voters, is stepping up the campaign to recruit volunteers to run the voting locations or polling places for the coming general election. It’s due in part to the “aging-out” of the usual poll working staff, and partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, to which those over 65 are especially vulnerable.

In a community Zoom meeting last week, Proto outlined the necessary skills to work the polls, and Tim Zahner, director of the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, saw an opening. “The skills that we use in hospitality – friendly, calming, ability to look up garbled reservations on a computer – are the similar skills that are needed for poll workers,” said Zahner.

“She said she hadn’t thought about it that way and bam – I decided to send this out to the hospitality businesses in our database.” So he distributed Proto’s call for volunteers to his extensive list of contacts in the tourism industry.

“We would love to have people who are good at customer service and computer skills, because they will be needed,” Proto told the Index-Tribune. She said people should sign up as soon as possible, as work has already begun assigning individuals to locations. “We are looking for approximately 300 to 400 people per day, and a lot of those may be people serving for multiple days.”

In particular, the registrar is seeking bilingual poll workers, fluent in English and one of the following languages: Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Khmer. They can receive an additional stipend of $25 a day.

This year the county has extended the period of time when people may cast their vote at their local polling places. Instead of one day, the polls will be open four days – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Oct. 31 to Nov. 2; and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Election Day.

The number of polling places are dramatically reduced this year but will be open longer hours, and ballot dropboxes will be distributed throughout the county to allow votes to be cast for a full 29 days, from Oct. 5 onward. For the first time, any voter will be able to go to any in-person voting location in the County.

Poll workers should be comfortable with technology, as a voter may appear at any polling place to vote, and their appropriate ballot -- reflecting their registration address -- must be printed onsite. “We will have poll workers looking up each voter, verifying they have not voted already, and printing the ballot for that particular precinct,” said Proto.

She said there will be 120 different ballot variations to cover the 285,000 registered voters in the county.

To sign up as a poll worker, visit

Email Christian at

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