Raft of New Laws Harm Poll Worker Recruitment
America is experiencing a nationwide poll worker shortage. Election officials have struggled to recruit poll workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasingly confrontational election environment (1). Philadelphia’s 2022 primary election saw staffing shortages at polling places across the city (2). One New Jersey county secured less than 70% of the poll workers that it needed to carry out its primary in June (3), and only half of Ohio counties had reached recruitment goals week before its July primary (4). It avoided polling place reductions and long lines only through an undesirable savior: lackluster turnout.
In this already-challenging environment, state legislatures have passed a raft of new laws making it more difficult to recruit and retain poll workers. To ensure a continuous supply of poll workers, state legislatures must halt and reverse this trend.
A few notable examples of anti-poll worker laws:
- In 2020, some jurisdictions received grants to raise poll worker pay. In response, multiple states banned outside funding, but failed to ensure adequate public funding streams (5). As a result, poll worker pay generally remains low.
- The same private funding bans have created confusion in some states over whether private companies can offer paid time off to employees who are serving as poll workers (6).
- Pennsylvania withholds desperately-needed state funding from counties unless they agree to count ballots “without interruption” from start to finish—leading election officials to wonder when poll workers will sleep or eat (7).
- Many states including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming enacted laws imposing fines and criminal penalties on election officials and poll workers for administrative errors (8).
- Iowa launched a criminal investigation into an election official who tried to boost poll worker recruitment during COVID-19 by offering hazard pay (9).