‘Stand up for democracy’: Philly to host poll worker recruitment drive

A statue of Octavius Catto at it's unveilling - statue facing front with arms spread open and back, people in the foreground in Philadelphia

An eager crowd surrounds the statue of Octavius V. Catto after its unveiling on the Southwest Apron of City Hall, September 2017. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

With the November general election just over two months away, Philadelphia is working to boost its ranks of poll workers.

City officials plan to spend Tuesday, Sept. 1 — National Poll Worker Recruitment Day — encouraging young people to work the polls in November.

City Commissioner Omar Sabir and other elected officials will host a poll worker recruitment drive at the Octavius V. Catto statue outside City Hall.

Sabir says the goal of the event, which kicks off at 11 a.m., is to motivate millennials to “stand up for democracy” by actively participating in the election process as poll workers — and to avoid Election Day understaffing spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

During the spring primary, election officials were met with unexpected call-outs from many poll workers, who tend to skew older and are more at risk for developing a serious case of the virus caused by COVID-19.

Philadelphia needs to staff 800 polling locations in November. Sabir estimates that the city is halfway to its goal of recruiting 8,500 poll workers.

Sabir hopes young people heed the city’s call. Recruiting adults ages 18 to 25, Sabir says, may also help to boost voter turnout for that demographic.

“If we involve them to be poll workers, involve them to work, organically they’re [telling] their colleagues about the election process,” said Sabir. “You know they might Tweet … They might Snapchat, make an Instagram post, make a Facebook post.”

Poll workers are primarily responsible for opening voting machines at the start of the day and checking voters into the polling place.

Those interested in helping out at the polls must attend training and be available to work on Election Day from 6:15 a.m. until election materials are picked up at the polling place, typically after 8 p.m.

Poll workers must be registered to vote in Philadelphia, and will receive a $250 stipend — $200 for Election Day, and $50 for training.

Philly Voter Information & Resources

  • To see if you are registered to vote, see here.
  • To register to vote, see here.
  • To view a sample ballot based on your address, see here.
  • To sign up to become a poll worker, see here.
  • To find your polling place, see here.
  • To apply for a mail-in ballot, see here.
  • To apply for an absentee ballot, see here.
  • To check the status of your mail-in or absentee ballot, see here.

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WHYY’s Ximena Conde and Zachariah Hughes contributed reporting.

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