Key States Face Poll Worker Shortages, Congressional Report Warns

People wear masks as they wait in line to vote at a voting center during primary voting in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

People wear masks as they wait in line to vote at a voting center during primary voting in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A report by Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis analyzed the election preparations of four states and warned that a failure to recruit enough poll workers will lead to long wait times on Election Day.

States risk not having enough poll workers on Election Day if they do not step up efforts to help local election officials recruit and prepare for the November presidential election, a new congressional report warns.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis analyzed the election preparations of four states—Florida, Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin—and found they all face a potential shortage of these crucial temporary workers, which could lead to significant delays for voters who cast ballots in person.

Georgia needs 20,000 poll workers for the election season, but the state had identified only 5,000 possible candidates, according to the staff report, released Wednesday by committee Democrats. One county, Dougherty County, reported that while it planned to have 196 poll workers on Election Day, it had identified only 29 people who were ready to serve.

The state appears to have drummed up additional interest in the time since the committee received information about recruitment efforts, as news reports out Wednesday indicate officials are saying 14,600 people have signed up as poll workers. In-person voting may be particularly important in Georgia on Election Day, as the state is not sending absentee ballots applications to voters for the general election the same way it did for the primaries this year.

The other three states did not identify the total number of poll workers needed statewide. The report faults them for not overseeing statewide recruitment efforts and instead leaving preparations up to local officials.

“With just two months left before the general election, states cannot simply defer to local election officials to address these problems,” states the report. “Instead, states should move swiftly and proactively to implement CDC recommendations and ensure a free, fair, and safe election.”

In Texas, which has not expanded vote-by-mail options amid the pandemic, documents obtained by the committee indicate there could be a poll worker shortage in half of the state’s counties. The Texas Secretary of State asked county officials in a recent survey whether election judges and clerks that normally work elections had indicated that they would not work for future elections. Of 254 county election officials, 127 indicated at least some of their typical workers would not be available.

An uptick in coronavirus cases in Texas over the summer, coupled with recent election guidance indicating that poll workers cannot require voters to wear masks inside polling places could lead other workers to drop out, the report states.

“It is crucial Texas take steps now to recruit poll workers rather than closing polling places and reducing hours,” said Select Subcommittee Chairman Rep. James Clyburn, who led a hearing on election preparedness on Wednesday.

The staff report has also raised the alarm about the potential for poll worker shortages in Florida and Wisconsin, finding that in Florida, state officials “have not developed statewide projections of voter turnout, absentee ballots, or poll workers needed.”

Wisconsin has estimated that it needs 30,000 poll workers for the general election, but the report found that because the state does not have a system in place to collect statewide recruiting data it is unclear whether it will have a sufficient number of poll workers. 

Testifying at Wednesday’s hearing, voting rights experts said it is important to ensure voters’ ballot access is protected regardless of whether they choose to vote by mail or in person.

Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said streamlining the process to obtain an absentee ballot, expanding early voting options so voters can cast ballots up to two weeks ahead of time, and properly staffing polling places so voters are not subject to long lines are all important steps for election officials to take.

Rather than rely on the expansion of absentee voting, some states are doubling down on efforts to improve in-person voting amid the pandemic.

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft told lawmakers at the hearing that he will continue to encourage voters to cast their ballots in person, citing concern about the collection and counting of absentee ballots.   

“It’s not a perfect system. What we see in Missouri and nationally is that in every election, at least 2 to 3% of ballots received by mail are rejected,” Ashcroft said.

Ballots could be disqualified for a litany of reasons, Ashcroft said, including an incorrectly completed envelope, a signature that doesn’t match voter records, or an incorrect ballot scan. 

To support in-person voting, Ashcroft said Missouri has adopted other measures. The state used federal coronavirus funding to provide grants to local election officials so they could take whatever action they believed was needed to prepare. Missouri has also increased the number and size of some polling places, embraced curbside and drive through voting options as well, Ashcroft told the committee.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: Introducing Future Cities: Government's Inside Track to 2030

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.