PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Ensuring municipalities have enough poll workers prior to a presidential election is always challenging, according to Registrar and Director of Elections in Cranston Nicholas Lima, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it especially hard this year.
The Rhode Island Board of Elections tells Eyewitness News that more than 50% of poll workers are over the age of 65.
“It’s been the most monumental challenge we’ve faced,” Lima said. “We’ve had not only some of our older poll workers, but some of our younger poll workers saying ‘You know what? This isn’t the year for me’ or ‘I have an older relative at home I don’t want to expose’ and we understand that, but we need other people to stand up and take their place.”
With mayoral candidates in both parties, Lima said Cranston is gearing up for a busy election year.
Lima said they need 300 poll workers to run their 30 stations, and earlier in the month, they only had 150 sign up.
“We are treading water,” he said. “We are where we need to be right now, but not every town is.”
The R.I. Board of Elections said Johnston, Cumberland, Providence and Bristol are also short poll workers.
Common Cause R.I. Executive Director John Marion tells Eyewitness News that, while poll workers take on a long day, it’s a paid position.
“It’s appealing to people’s sense of civic duty, right, that you’re helping run our democracy,” Marion said.
Morgan Awner signed up after hearing Providence needed help at their poll stations and she is encouraging other residents to do the same.
“I’m not with anyone who’s at risk so I feel lucky to be able to go out and really help the community and I thought it was a really easy thing I could do for one day,” Awner said.
Marion said it’s not too late to sign up. Anyone who is interested in applying can visit the R.I. Board of Election’s website.