Chester County officials hope to get out in front of this problem by leaning on local businesses to give their employees time off to volunteer at the polls.
“A number of businesses support local nonprofits and/or community service activities,” said Kara Rahn, director of the Department of Voter Services in Chester County. “We’re frankly just suggesting this might be an option for them if they have civically minded employees that might find this of interest.”
The county’s existing 1,800 poll workers staff 228 precincts for 16-hour days, but Rahn said they’re recruiting additional “volunteers” for more flexible shifts.
“What we’re trying to do is offer a variety of time slots or opportunities where someone might be able to assist without taking their entire day,” said Rahn.
The county is hoping the businesses will make this more likely by offering employees penalty-free time off to work the polls, without having to sacrifice vacation days.
She said the idea was an adaption of an initiative in Orange County, California, which pays county workers a stipend, in addition to their normal pay for a day of work, in return for volunteering on Election Day. Chester County pays its volunteer poll workers a $114 stipend for a full (read “long”) day’s work. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Without enough polling workers, long waits and bottlenecks can discourage voters pressed for time.
Chester County uses paper ballots and needs staff to find voters in the registrar’s books, hand out ballots and answer questions, according to Rahn.
Rahn said businesses or individuals who would like to help out can contact her department for training at (610) 344-6410 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Voter Services is frankly prepared to train any volunteer at any time,” she said, but expects interest to pick up between Labor Day and mid-October.