Baptist Health will pay employees to work polls

A line of McCracken County residents stretches through the bowels of the courthouse on Tuesday as they wait to cast their ballot on the first day of early voting eligibility. Early in-person voting can be done at the McCracken County Clerk’s Office during regular business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, through Nov. 2.

During last week’s election webinar, sponsored by the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams made reference to how difficult it is becoming to find poll workers in the commonwealth.

On the subject of poll workers, “It’s been hard this year,” Adams told the chamber audience via Zoom. “Back last year before I was sworn in, I testified to the legislature that we have a poll worker crisis in Kentucky.

“We have an aging generation of poll workers who are not going to be with us in that capacity forever, and we’ve got to find younger people to step up and take those positions and serve their communities.”

For the Nov. 3 general election, Baptist Health is helping to fill a critical need for election workers in Kentucky and Indiana by paying its employees to work at the polls, across its system, including Paducah.

The move came after requests from Baptist Health employees, and from civic leaders in the communities served by the nine-hospital system. Poll workers are the community members who greet voters at their local precinct, check their registration, and direct them to voting booths.

“Poll workers are crucial to making democracy happen,” said Gerard Colman, Baptist Health CEO.

“We encourage our employees — and all those in our communities — to volunteer on Election Day, to educate themselves about the candidates and to vote.”

The hospital system will pay any employee who has a interest in being trained and volunteering to work at the polls, according to Angie Kinsey Timmons, public relations specialist at Baptist Health-Paducah. Employees are encouraged to check with their supervisors if they are interested and then check with their county clerk to see if there is a need, she said.

Baptist Health joins a long list of companies encouraging workers to fill more than a million election worker positions nationally. Traditionally, a majority of these workers are senior citizens — and many may not want to serve this year because of health risks posed by the pandemic.

“I’m grateful to Baptist Health for allowing their employees to serve as poll workers while still getting paid for their day jobs,” Adams said.

“Democracy is a team sport and we need the help of private citizens and the private sector. Baptist Health has set a standard that I hope others will follow.”

Baptist Health is the state’s largest health system, with more than 22,000 employees in Kentucky and southern Indiana.

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