coronavirus pandemic

State Needs Volunteers After Pandemic Causes Poll Worker Shortage Ahead of Primaries

NBC Universal, Inc.

Quinn Cotton, just 17, can’t vote yet.  However, he’ll be working at his local polling place in South Windsor on election day.

It’s really cool to see the inner workings of the political system and how democracy runs,” said Cotton. “It’s great to be able to step in and help the community out when they need me the most.”

Cities and towns across the state will rely on more young people this election cycle. 

Many of the older volunteers communities have come to rely on are choosing to stay home this year, over coronavirus concerns.

 “We have had really a big need,” said Raymond Skarsten, the Republican registrar of voters for Hamden.

Haddam typically hires 25 poll workers and many are retirees.

“Fourteen of them said no, they wouldn’t work this election,” said Skarsten.

State election officials have been pushing for more paid volunteers to step up to the plate through this online campaign.

“You can be a hero, truly, because you’ll be stepping in for somebody at risk and you’ll also be there preserving, protecting, and defending our constitutional right to vote,” said the Deputy Secretary of the State, Scott Bates.

The city of Waterbury filled 20 polling place positions by reaching out to local youth organizations.

“It has been working well just reaching out to the community and finding new avenues to bring people in to work the election,” said Timothy De Carlo, the Republican registrar of voters for the city.

De Carlo, who sits on the Registrar of Voters Association Board, said smaller towns with a smaller pool of eligible volunteers have been hit harder by the shortage.  However, even Waterbury, which uses 250 poll workers, plans to keep hiring.

“It’s not uncommon up until the week before or even sometimes even a few days before the election for a poll workers to drop out for whatever reason,” said De Carlo noting that they also need to grow their list for the November election.

Haddam has been working since March to hire more poll workers.  Local election officials said the town finally started receiving inquiries thanks to local advertisements placed in the paper this week.  However, only one is a student. 

"It'd be nice to have younger people,” said Saralyn D’Amato the Democratic Registrar of Voters for the town.

Olivia DeMaio has been a poll worker since she was 16.  The soon-to-be college freshman says it not only provides her a little extra spending money but a chance to give back to her community.

 “I really enjoy it.  I think it’s a lot of fun to see how the voting process works because I started before I could actually vote and it offered me some peace of mind to see how it actually works,” she said.

All polling place workers get paid and this year some towns are even offering hazard pay.  Cotton said he’s been told he’ll receive an extra $100 to work during the pandemic.

To sign up you must be registered to vote unless you are 16 or 17, in which case you must have a parent’s permission.

You can work at any polling place, not just in the community where you’re registered to vote. 

Contact Us