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I-Team: Poll workers wanted for fast approaching primary election

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Election officials across northeastern and central Pennsylvania are gearing up for the May 18th primary election.

The pandemic changed the landscape of those preparations in 2020. One of the challenges was recruiting poll workers. So what is the situation now?

Lackawanna County election officials say they are in much better shape in recruiting poll workers than in 2020. But they say they can always use more people.

As they say in the bullpen, Luzerne County is also looking to beef up those poll worker numbers. The I-Team checked out a training session for poll workers in Luzerne County on Thursday.

They were learning how to operate the electronic voting machines. Many of these folks have been poll workers in the past. County election officials say the difficulty is in recruiting new workers.

“It is a challenge. We have people in the election who actually spend a lot of time on the phone trying to recruit people. We put out public notices. We want to make sure people who are interested in this understand we will do training with you. We won’t be sending you out there unprepared,” Luzerne County director of elections Bob Morgan said.

Paul Makuch has been a poll worker for the past six years.

“I enjoy doing it. I meet a lot of interesting people from different walks of life. Helping people out especially on Election Day,” Makuch said.

In Luzerne County there is also revamped training for the handling of mail in ballots. Controversy in 2020 when nine military ballots were mistakenly thrown into the trash by a temporary employee.

That led to a federal investigation which determined there was no criminal intent. County manager Dave Pedri says the county learned from that incident.

“The Luzerne County Election Board revamped all of our training protocols. We reviewed internal policies in place. We have no doubt this will be a safe and secure election for 2021,” Pedri said.

Lackawanna County officials say their poll worker numbers are much improved from 2020.

“Ideally, each polling place, we would like to have five workers. Sometimes that can be a challenge. Last year was definitely more challenging due to COVID. Seems perhaps more people are more willing to work this time, maybe they’re vaccinated,” Lackawanna County director of elections Beth Hopkins said.

Both Lackawanna and Luzerne County officials say they need somewhere around 800 to 900 poll workers. They are currently in the ballpark and should have no problems unless people drop out.

But they need workers to be in reserve. If you are interested in being a poll worker in your county, you can go to the Pennsylvania Department of State website and register.

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