So you want to be a poll worker: What you need to know to work the polls on Election Day

By: - September 14, 2020 6:30 am

Facing a shortage of Election Day poll workers, the Pa. Department of State is asking those who are healthy and able to volunteer (Pennsylvania Department of State graphic).

* This story was updated to include a more recent number of signups.

Hit by the one-two punch of the pandemic and an aging workforce, election officials across the commonwealth and nationwide are racing to deal with a shortage of polling place volunteers on Election Day. And with two months to go before the polls open, time is running out.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, whose office oversees elections across the commonwealth, called on all eligible Pennsylvanians to sign up to be a poll worker. 

“I urge any Pennsylvanian who wants to get involved in elections to consider becoming a poll worker,” Boockvar, a former poll worker, said. “You never feel like you are more directly involved in assisting democracy than at a polling place on election day.”

For those who are interested but might be on the fence about helping out on election day, the Capital-Star answered some of the most frequently asked questions about poll workers. 

What does a poll worker do? 

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), poll workers are “the face of the election office during voting.” 

While their responsibilities can vary, most poll workers will prepare a polling location for voters, verify voter registration, issue ballots, and demonstrate how to use voting equipment. 

Why should I get involved? 

Finding poll workers in a normal election year can be taxing for county election officials, but this year, amid a global pandemic, it’s become increasingly difficult. 

With more than half of the country’s poll workers aged 61 and older and in an age group that is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, America is facing a poll worker shortage for the 2020 election. 

According to a Pennsylvania Department of State spokesperson, 40,000-45,000 workers are needed to fully staff polling places statewide.

Since the June primary, the department said, nearly 34,000 people have filled out the poll worker interest form.

Despite the national shortage, poll workers are still crucial to the election process, the EAC says, which is why election officials are asking anyone young, healthy and willing to work, sign up to work the polls on Election Day. 

“Poll workers are critical to the success of an election. Having an adequate number of poll workers to staff polling places on and before Election Day can ensure voters receive the assistance they need at the polls and can help provide a positive and smooth voting experience for all.”

How do I get involved?

Here are the requirements to be a poll worker in Pennsylvania: 

    • Poll workers generally work for the entire day on election day, from before the time the polls open at 7:00 a.m., until after the polls close at 8:00 p.m.
    • In general, you must be registered to vote in the county where you wish to work.  (Exceptions exist for 17-year-old high school students, who must meet additional requirements. High school students should contact their county election office for more information.)
    • Government officials and government employees are not allowed to serve as poll workers. Exceptions exist for district judges, notaries public, and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Likewise, you are generally not allowed to serve if your name appears on the ballot. 
    • Workers must attend mandatory training from county election official.

If you meet these requirements and are interested in becoming a poll worker, you will need to complete the poll worker interest form on the Department of State’s website, where you will answer basic questions personal questions, such as contact information,and relevant skills. 

After you’ve completed the form, your county’s election office will contact you. 


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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.