MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — From checking in voters and ensuring they’re on the roll to passing out correct ballots, poll workers play a vital role in ensuring Alabama elections run smoothly.

The state has 1,980 polling sites, and some probate judges say staffing each one with enough poll workers ahead of the primaries has been challenging.

“They’re a vital part of the election process,” Autauga County Probate Judge Kim Kervin said.

Kervin says her county hasn’t had issues with getting poll workers due to COVID concerns, but they still have less than the last election.

“We feel like we have enough to serve in that role, but I know that our numbers are down a little bit,” Kervin said.

Coosa County is in a similar situation. Probate Judge Richard Dean says they’re very close to getting the 85 poll workers needed to man the 13 precincts.

“We are working hard trying to get poll workers. This election has been very difficult,” Dean said.

Judge Dean says the effects of COVID are still being felt.

“We’ve had a lot of our people who were sick with COVID, and it has left them debilitated to where they can’t work the polls and we have lost a handful of workers who have passed from COVID,” Dean said.

Dean says a new code allowing poll workers to work anywhere in the county, even outside their own precinct, has helped with staffing. So has a recent law allowing high schoolers to help out.

“We passed legislation in 2019 that enables high school students that are ages 16 or 17 to work the polls. They can do any job that a poll worker can do except handle the ballot,” Secretary of State John Merrill said.

Merrill encourages anyone interested to get involved in local elections.

“The role of the poll worker is extraordinarily important. Since Alabama is a bottom-up state, obviously election security and integrity and transparency begins with our poll workers there at our precinct level,” Merrill said.

If you’re interested in becoming a poll worker, reach out to the probate judge in your county for more information, or contact the Secretary of State’s office.