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Election Day is less than two months away, and for the process to go smoothly, Pennsylvania needs a lot more poll workers. Many of the 8.7 million registered voters in the state would be eligible to work at the polls for the November 7th municipal elections.
Lauren Cristella, League of Women Voters board member and president and CEO of the Committee of 70, a voter education group, said 40,000 Pennsylvanians are needed twice a year to ensure elections happen.
The state is also recruiting 17-year-olds to serve as poll workers, if they get permission from their school principal and a parent or guardian.
“Poll workers are our first, best defense against election fraud, anything that would cause disenfranchisement of voters,” Cristella said. “Fully-staffed, well-trained poll workers make voting easier for everyone. So, we took that as an important part of our mission, to make sure that these important roles are filled.”
Cristella said Pennsylvania’s population growth is one reason more poll workers are needed. In Philadelphia, for instance, each polling location requires five people to serve in the assigned roles — and there are more than 1,700 locations.
Older Pennsylvanians are traditionally the backbone of poll staffing. But it has been a challenge since the pandemic to find enough workers, because COVID prompted many people to decide to stay home for health reasons, she said.
“There was a huge gap we had to fill — so many people stepped up,” Cristella said. “We recruited tens of thousands of people in Pennsylvania in 2020. Getting those people back is important.”
People can sign up to become poll workers through the Pennsylvania Department of State website or the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania website. Last year, according to program manager Samantha Anthony, 1,200 people signed up online at palwv.org.
Danielle M. Smith is a producer for Public News Service, where this story first appeared. An award-winning radio journalist/personality with more than a decade of experience in broadcast media, she is a former audio journalist with American Urban Radio Networks and Sheridan Broadcasting Networks who also hosts a weekly community affairs show “Good News” on WGBN (1360 AM/98.9 FM).
Originally published September 19, 2023.