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EDITORIAL: Do your civic duty. Become a poll worker.

EDITORIAL: Do your civic duty. Become a poll worker.

Workers desperately needed to ensure in-person voting goes smoothly.
EDITORIAL: Do your civic duty. Become a poll worker.
Voters sign in during the Greater Johnstown School District budget vote in July
Photographer: Adam Shinder/Gazette

Government officials are understandably worried about mail-in voting.

But the post office isn’t the only link in the election chain that could be overwhelmed this election season.

If the polling places don’t have enough workers to handle the anticipated crowds of voters brave enough to vote in person, the result could be long lines at the polls, people being unable to vote, and the potential for spreading the coronavirus in overcrowded polling locations.

If you want to exercise your civic duty more than just by voting, sign up to be a poll worker.

Poll workers are desperately needed this year to sign in voters, direct voters to polling places, document information and assist voters who need help voting.

Government officials expect a critical shortage of poll workers this year, largely due to the impact of the coronavirus and the particular danger to senior citizens who often serve as poll workers.

With fewer of those individuals willing to serve, combined with potentially fewer polling places and more people going to the polls because of the presidential election, there is a real danger of long delays and other problems during in-person voting without more poll workers.

It’s not an easy gig, for sure.

First off, the day is really long - 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Plus, poll workers are needed for early voting dates.

If you’re not retired or self-employed, you probably have to take the day off of work. And there is training involved, but that’s being done online this year.

It’s not volunteer work. You do get paid.

In Schenectady County, for instance, workers are paid $210 for Election Day ($12.73 an hour.)  Those who work on early voting days get paid $100-$130, depending on the hours for each particular day.

Visit your county Board of Elections website for more information on eligibility and how to sign up.

The state and counties can’t just sit by and wait for workers to flock to them.

They need to actively seek out poll workers. Some boards might consider offering incentives such as higher pay at high-traffic polling places. Or consider easing age restrictions to encourage high school and college students to serve. 

Employers and government agencies can do their civic duty by offering employees time off to serve as poll workers.

The circumstances of this election are unique, and the needs are special.

Poll workers will play a vital role in making it a success.

If you’re willing and able to serve, we encourage you to sign up.

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