To Be or Not To Be a Poll Worker in 2020
November 4, 2020
Just about everything has been affected by COVID-19 this year and polling places are no different. Even the primary date in Pennsylvania was postponed from April 28 to June 2. Safety measures were put in place like having hand sanitizer and masks available if voters didn’t have any and cleaning products for computer screens. But, despite taking those precautions, many longtime polls workers, most of whom are older, like Marian, Herrick Township, Susquehanna County, decided to sit out the primary and, in her case, resign. Marian said she had been a poll worker for over 20 years (and an auditor for 30) but COVID-19 prompted her resignation. “I had another year to go but I didn’t want to be there because of the virus. I enjoyed it. I got to meet and know a lot of people in town,” she said. She said she also enjoyed the company of the other ladies who worked the polls with her over the years. Herrick also lost two other poll workers for the primary out of concern for the virus and was in a quandary. Luckily, two other people came through as volunteers.
Rachel Mercuri, Acting Judge of Elections and Minority Inspector for the township said they have installed plexiglass as another safety measure for the general election. She said more people chose to vote early via mail in ballot versus voting in person in the county as a whole. “A lot of third parties, not political parties, but interest groups pushed them (with mailings, etc.). People were getting them but returning them in person. There was lots of concern. They wanted to be counted and wanted to make sure they were getting into the right hands. It’s a lot more than COVID. People were coming to the courthouse with ballots. The security guards (stationed outside) couldn’t sit down,” she said. Mercuri also said she had a family member receive an absentee ballot that they didn’t request.
So, how did the township fare for the general election in terms of poll workers? Mercuri said they got three new poll workers less than a week ago and they were called and asked if they would like to volunteer. Two of them are also retired and in their 70’s. The third is an 18 year-old. So, the township was prepared with two part-time clerks and two full-time poll workers.
Callers to a morning talk show on WILK Newsradio, Pittston, Luzerne County the day of the election said many areas of the county were not so prepared, including the boroughs of Nanticoke, Larksville and Wyoming, whose polling places were not open an hour into voting because poll workers failed to show up and in Mountaintop, polls opened half an hour late at 7:30am, and poll workers said they didn’t have passwords to unlock the voting machines.
One thing is for certain: Election 2020 will not be soon forgotten.