Chief election official says additional poll workers needed more than ever for upcoming election

NOW: Chief election official says additional poll workers needed more than ever for upcoming election

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Elections Commission says more than ever, municipalities are in need of poll workers for this year’s November General Election.  They say with the pandemic, jurisdictions are reporting some of their poll workers can’t serve because of health reasons.

The state elections commission says cities are not only in need of poll workers, but also an additional supply of backup workers. This year the commission has seen many sign up to be a poll worker, but don't actually show up.

“We’re still working to recruit an additional 750 Election Day workers to ensure the lines are not congested, the polling places are clean and disinfected frequently and that there’s a safety net should any staff members fall ill,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Mayor Barrett says while 70-percent of voters went the absentee route for the April and August election, he anticipates there will be increased voter turnout in November.

“We know voting by mail is not the best option for every voter,” said Mayor Barrett. “There was a 3% rejection rate in the April election due to issues like ballots not returned on time or not having the correct signatures.”

A general election like this requires nearly 30,000 poll workers in each of our cities, towns and villages across the state,” said Wisconsin’s Chief Election Official, Meagan Wolfe.

The city has launched incentives to recruit poll workers for Election Day.

We’ve raised the pay for that from $130 for the day to $230, that’s a hundred dollar increase to work that day,” added Mayor Barrett.

Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson says recruiting willing and able poll workers has proved challenging. Johnson applauds a youth-led organization called Poll Hero, who’s now using social media to recruit high school and college students to work the polls. So far 300 students have stepped up statewide.

“Traditional poll workers aren't able to serve in 2020 because they may be older or have other conditions where that is not a good option for them,” said Wolfe.

Megan Wolfe says in past elections the state has been able to call on the National Guard to serve as poll workers, but that’s not a guarantee this time around.

We don't know that that's something that that will be available, the governor is the only one that has the authority to make that decision,” said Wolfe.

The need for poll workers also comes as new roles have been created in the midst of a pandemic.

“This year we have some new roles for poll workers, things like making sure that every voter's offered sanitizer and helping with maintaining that social distancing,” Wolfe added.

With the ongoing pandemic, we want to make sure that our in-person voting locations comply with the CDC guidelines to keep voters safe,” said Mayor Barrett.

On top of taking extra measures, Mayor Barrett says the city has also added Fiserv Forum and Miller Park as early voting centers, opening in October. An additional 15 voting locations will be also be opened in Milwaukee on Election Day, Nov. 3.

“This offers a greater opportunity for social distancing and furthers racial equity and access to in-person voting opportunities,” Mayor Barrett said.

Wolfe says right now the state elections commission is continuing to gauge the need for poll workers in each municipality. If you are interested in becoming a poll worker, you can find more information by clicking here.

To become a poll worker in the city of Milwaukee, click here.

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