Unprecedented election year leads to changes in Fresno County polling protocols

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- With a record number of Americans exercising their right to vote, election night during this pandemic year was like no other.

Fresno County votes are still being processed, but County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth said no matter the outcome of races, it's the voters who won.

"The county spends a lot of money, and we prepare for months and months for a 100% turnout, so the more people that participate, it just validates that was worthwhile," Orth said.

Orth's first update counted roughly 234,000 ballots submitted through the mail or in 66 drop boxes countywide.

Like all election years, she said this year shed light on new challenges.

"I've got staff that are 6 feet apart, they have masks, they have plastic dividers between them. I need more physical space to put them, so everyone is safe while they're working," Orth said.

Orth hopes to find more space by repurposing the same warehouse. Currently, most of the building is taken up by the county's paper records.

Orth hopes to switch to a paperless system in the future.

This year, they made it work.

Thanks to the support of the board of supervisors and the county department of public health, Orth said they found creative ways to keep everyone safe.

Each person who enters the building is screened by an on-site nurse every time they enter the building.

That includes after breaks.

It's a big job. There are more than 600 paid workers and volunteers working this election.

The county also deployed an additional 150 employees from various departments to work on the election through a disaster service worker clause.

"In a pandemic, and a high turnout, I really appreciate the county family for helping us," said Orth.

The county is still totaling the costs for all the additional health safety measures prompted by the pandemic.

December 3 is the date to certify all of those ballots.
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