Secretary of State: RI in need of poll workers for general election

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With early voting for the November election set to begin this week in Rhode Island, the Board of Elections says the state is part of a nationwide trend of needing more people to work the polls.

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea attributed the shortage to the pandemic.

“It’s keeping us from having our longest-serving poll workers — senior citizens — because they have to be very careful during COVID, so we really, really need to get poll workers signed up and alternates as much as possible,” Gorbea said Tuesday.

Jennifer Regan, who trains poll workers for the R.I. Board of Elections, told 12 News the average age of the workers is 72.

That’s why both Gorbea’s office and the Board of Elections are trying to recruit younger Rhode Islanders to help fill the gap. The state is taking part in a social media campaign called “Power The Polls.”

“There’s a couple of things I tell young people,” Gorbea said. “This is an amazing election to be a part of, and to work an election is to be a part of history.”

“And for my 16- and 17-year-olds who are pre-registered to vote, you no longer have to suffer from FOMO [fear of missing out],” she added. “You can actually show up and be a part of that election. You can’t vote, but you can help run the election and it’s a very important duty.”

The cities in most need of poll workers are Providence, Pawtucket, and Warwick, according to Regan.

Visit the Board of Elections’ website to learn more and apply.

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