Without poll workers, there would be no elections.
That simple but sincere message was stated Tuesday by state and county election officials at a poll worker awareness event at the Lebanon Community Library. The event was part of Help America Vote Day.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt, delivered that message to highlight the ongoing need for poll workers during elections, which are April 23 for the 2024 primary and Nov. 5 for this year’s presidential election.
Also attending the press conference with the Secretary of State, as Secretary Schmidt’s role is commonly known as, were Sean Drasher, director of the Lebanon County Voter Registration/Elections, Lebanon County Commissioners Mike Kuhn and Jo Ellen Litz, and three local poll workers.
“It is probably the most important position to make sure that our entire system of government, our representative democracy, functions the way that it should,” said Schmidt. “Voters making their votes heard and choosing who represents them. None of that is possible without poll workers.”
Schmidt said Pennsylvania has roughly 45,000 poll workers across more than 9,000 voting locations across Pennsylvania.
Poll workers “more or less volunteer,” said Schmidt. “It’s a paid position, but they’re more or less volunteering for this 14 hours of public service to make sure that we can have our votes cast and counted.”
Schmidt presented proclamations to three local poll workers: Megan Schaeffer of Jackson Township and Lebanon High School students Jack Herr and Jahkeim Medlock. Medlock was interviewed last November as part of LebTown’s Election Day real-time coverage as one of 11 Lebanon High School students who worked the polls.
“It’s a long day, it’s a rewarding day and it’s something that matters,” said Schaeffer. “It’s some of the best work you can do for your community. Boots on the ground that actually matters. Without poll workers, we can’t have these elections.’
Schmidt said it’s helpful to get younger people involved to serve and to learn about elections before reading a proclamation and thanking them for their service.
Medlock said he didn’t know much about voting prior to working the polls, adding he learned a lot that day about what happens before and after people have voted. Herr voiced similar sentiments.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to learn how to vote, like, how to do it, and everything that goes on behind the scenes,” said Herr. “Because everybody has the right to vote, everybody should vote and I thought it was a great opportunity and a great experience.”
Kuhn thanked the three individuals for being poll workers.
“As you just stated so eloquently, we couldn’t do this without so much help,” said Kuhn, who serves as chairman of the county Board of Elections. “It’s down to people like you.”
Litz said the county is proud of its poll workers.
“Young, old and everybody in-between,” said Litz. “I say that because we have a future. By getting the students involved, I know our elections are going to be safe and secure into the future. Thank you so much because we couldn’t do it without you. We are eternally grateful.”
Drasher compared his job to being like an athletic director.
“When we talk about poll workers and what they do, I set everything up and put the pieces in place ahead of time,” he said. “But then it’s you guys who are on the field who are playing the game on Election Day.”
Drasher noted that while the county is blessed to have a full list of poll workers, it is always in recruitment mode.
“That said, the reason we constantly recruit is that we have players go down on the field all the time,” he said. “Even though there’s a waiting list, it can be hard to fill those spots at the time. … We always do need poll workers.”
Drasher said he began his career in politics by being a poll worker, has done every poll worker job on Election Day, and is now the county’s election director.
“So you never know where this will go,” he added, looking at the two students and encouraging them to stick with it into the future.
Joining Schmidt at the event to extol the value libraries bring to the election process was Susan Banks, deputy secretary for the Commissioner of Libraries and State Librarian.
“Our Pennsylvania public libraries are essential contributors to democracy,” Banks said. “Libraries provide reliable information, individual support for folks who need help navigating voting processes, and they support civic literacy through materials, services, and programs that consider all needs and points of view. Pennsylvanians can trust their libraries to help.”
There are criteria for becoming a poll worker. The state issued the following information in a press release provided to the media.
Pennsylvania’s poll workers must be registered voters, which means they must meet voter registration eligibility criteria. Pennsylvania also allows 17-year-old high school juniors and seniors to serve as poll workers if they obtain permission from their school principal and a parent or guardian.
Benefits of becoming a poll worker include:
- being paid for training and for Election Day work.
- learning about elections in Pennsylvania.
- gaining valuable experience.
- helping the community.
Registered voters interested in becoming a poll worker should fill out the Department of State’s Poll Worker Interest Form. Students should fill out the Department’s Student Poll Worker Interest Form.
See more photos of the event below.
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