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Republican volunteers say ‘passion’ drove victories across the ballot

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With an election characterized by face masks, social distancing and longer hours, local Republicans say volunteering this year was a bit more challenging, but the passion helped the party see victories across the ballot.

Scott Isley said he’s volunteered with the Rowan County Republican Party before, but this was his first election in charge of organizing volunteers to work at the polls. He said about 80 volunteers were spread across the voting sites this year, which was a challenge because of the extra voting hours and days available this year.

While Isley tried to arrange volunteers at sites closest to where they live, the main goal was to ensure someone was present at every voting site during every hour in the early voting period — Oct. 15 to Oct. 31, which included three Saturdays and two Sundays. Additionally, most precincts on Election Day had a Republican volunteer present as well, he said.

He added that those efforts paid off. Every Republican candidate on the ballot in Rowan County was victorious, with nearly all Republicans winning by a margin of at least 30 percentage points.

“We covered our polls,” Isley said. “There was a steady number of very passionate Trump supporters volunteering this year.”

The goal of volunteers at voting sites was to present a positive face and provide information that listed all of the Republican candidates on the ballot, which many people appreciated, he said. And the pandemic did result in those volunteers being more conscious about respecting other people’s space.

Isley said another difference this year is that more of the older, retired volunteers spent their time working at the county headquarters, located at 612 W. Innes St.

Rowan County Republican Party Chairman Don Vick said volunteering was impacted by the pandemic this year because some of the frequent or typical volunteers were less outgoing with their efforts because their families wanted them to stay home.

“This was a tough year,” he said.

Nonetheless, “our folks worked really hard,” he added.

Elaine Hewitt, who’s been an active volunteer in local Republican politics for more than a decade, said a major difference this year was the mask wearing and social distancing. She primarily spent her time as a poll observer.

While many of the older volunteers weren’t able to participate this year or had to limit their contact, “that did not impact our abilities as a party to do what we needed to do,” Hewitt said.

Volunteers have the flexibility to choose when to volunteer, but one of Hewitt’s biggest concerns was the schedule for the paid election workers. Hewitt said one early voting supervisor she spoke with told her some paid election workers worked more than 80 hours during the first week of early voting.

“Being an election worker requires great attention to detail,” Hewitt said. “Fatigue puts accuracy in jeopardy as well as increases the chances of inappropriate behavior or statements.”

Hewitt said, if a voting schedule like this year’s continues in future elections, more effective scheduling should be studied.

“Obviously the pandemic impacted some experienced election workers, and the (Rowan County Board of Elections) did the best they could,” Hewitt said. “Again, if this schedule continues, the board itself needs to look at how to man it effectively.”

Isley said he was proud of what Rowan County was able to accomplish this year.

“(The pandemic) made for a difficult season,” he said, “but luckily people were passionate enough to stick it out.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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