Tuesday, Sept. 1, has been proclaimed National Poll Worker Recruitment Day and a statewide shortage of workers has caused concern for election officials.
Locally, the situation is better, with local county Board of Elections representatives telling The Daily Star that staffing levels will be fine, although no one would refuse a few more workers.
“Chenango County is always recruiting new poll workers,” said Mary Lou Monahan, Chenango County’s Republican commissioner of elections. “The pandemic has affected those willing to work, but we have had a brisk level of interest from new poll workers.”
“Our election inspector roster is looking pretty good at the moment,” said Michael Henrici, Otsego County’s Democratic Board of Elections commissioner. “We just had a training session on Tuesday, and have two more scheduled for September (1st and 23rd at 5 p.m.).
“We are always looking for new inspectors, especially those willing to travel to other towns,” he said.
The state Board of Elections has been more concerned. In a media release for the recruitment day, New York Commissioner of Elections Douglas Kellner said some areas are facing a “critical shortage” of workers.
“Even as New York expands absentee voting options, millions of New Yorkers — especially voters with disabilities and those who lack reliable mail service — will continue to rely on in-person voting to cast a ballot,” Kellner said.
“In New York State, 55% of all poll workers are over the age of 60, making them especially vulnerable to complications if they contract COVID-19,” said Peter Kosinski, co-chair of the state board. “This has resulted in a critical need for poll workers who are willing and able to assist with the administration of in-person during early voting and on election day.”
“Poll workers are critical to the success of an election,” said Todd Valentine, co-executive director of the state Board of Elections. “Having an adequate number of poll workers to staff polling places on election day and during early voting can ensure voters receive the assistance they need at the polls and can help provide a positive and smooth voting experience for all. By signing up to be a poll worker, you can help New York vote.”
The statewide shortages have caused concern about long lines or closed polling places on election day, but the local election officials said they don’t expect issues.
“We do not anticipate any difficulties in Delaware County,” said Robin Alger, the deputy Republican commissioner for Delaware County. “All polling sites will be open. We expect to have enough inspectors.”
To be eligible, a poll worker must be a registered voter in New York. Poll workers get paid for training and each election day they work. Go to www.elections.ny.gov/BecomePollworker.html or to the Board of Elections pages on the counties’ websites for more information.
In other election news Thursday, the state expanded its criteria for requesting an absentee ballot to include an expanded definition of “temporary illness” including avoiding contracting an illness or disease, such as coronavirus. Voters without an application form may request a ballot by letter, fax or email and an application will be included with their ballot.
The last day to postmark an absentee ballot has been changed to election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The reforms will expire at the end of the year.
The last day to register to vote in the general election is Oct. 9. The last day to postmark an absentee ballot application is Oct. 27. The last day to apply in person for an absentee ballot is Nov. 2.
Early voting will be held from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1. Go to the local BOE websites for polling hours and locations.
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7218.