‘When it’s slow like this, it’s not very fun’: In Cumberland County, election workers react to turnout

By: - May 18, 2021 2:50 pm

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, 52 voters — out of more than 790 registered — had cast their ballot at the Mechanicsburg Municipal Center.

Gary Weber, who has been working Election Day for 20 years, estimated that voters in Precinct Four would maybe reach 15 percent turnout by the time polls closed at 8 p.m.

Historically, municipal elections experience lower voter turnout compared to presidential years. In the 2019 Primary Election, Cumberland County reported 17.81 percent total voter turnout; Weber’s precinct reported an 11.13 percent turnout.

“That’s the way it always is,” he said, sitting in an empty polling place. “When it’s slow like this, it’s not very fun.”

Working the polls, as well as recruiting more help, is how Weber says he gives back and has a say in his community. 

“It’s just the sense that you’re doing something; you’re being part of the process,” he said.

When asked how they got involved as poll workers, Kyle Manning, Linda Willis and Jean Souder all pointed to Weber. 

Over time, they realized that elections, especially municipal races, are where residents get to have a say over their community. That’s what keeps them coming back each year, and they said they wished more people participated, both by volunteering and voting.

“We all grew up here, so we care about what goes on in our community,” Souder added.

Drena Elder, minority inspector at Precinct Three in the borough, which is about 20 minutes from Harrisburg, said workers had a small line of voters, waiting to cast their ballot at 7 a.m., but as the day goes on, things calmed down. By 1 p.m., the polling place was empty, but Elder said she expects more voters would come after work.

“It’s a long day, but it’s rewarding to be here,” she said — adding that she keeps volunteer forms on hand just in case a voter is interested in helping with future elections.

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Marley Parish
Marley Parish

A Pennsylvania native, Marley Parish covers the Senate for the Capital-Star. She previously reported on government, education and community issues for the Centre Daily Times and has a background in writing, editing and design. A graduate of Allegheny College, Marley served as editor of the campus newspaper, where she also covered everything from student government to college sports.

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