Pawtucket short on poll workers, voting locations

Pawtucket short on poll workers, voting locations

PAWTUCKET – For the first time in his 17 years of being the registrar in charge of local elections, Ken McGill says the city is short on poll workers for the fall elections.

In another twist brought on by the pandemic, officials are also having some problems finding polling places, as hosts for a few of them have opted out for this election cycle citing concerns about COVID-19.

“This leaves us scrambling to find other places that are handicapped accessible,” he said. “We are reaching out to churches and community groups that may like to help us out.”

McGill said many longtime poll workers, because of their age and health, have decided to sit this year’s election out, which he said is totally understandable.

“We are reaching out to the younger voters who last year, before the pandemic, filled out an application to become a poll worker at their school,” he said. Anyone who would like to be a poll worker for the upcoming Sept. 8 primary or the Nov. 3 general election should contact Lynn Fernandes at lfernandes@pawtucketri.com .

Pawtucket needs to hire an average of 250 poll workers for its 31 polling places.

Like many other states, Rhode Island has sought to lessen the burden at the polls by expanding vote-by-mail efforts.

In a statement last week, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea said she was pleased to see the General Assembly pass legislation allowing Rhode Islanders to securely cast their ballots into a voting machine at their city or town hall up to 20 days before an election, a measure that will help reduce crowding at indoor polling places during the pandemic and ensure greater access to the ballot box going forward.

But she also criticized the Rhode Island Senate for failing the people of the state by not addressing legislation to make it easier to cast a ballot from home.

“Rhode Island is an outlier nationally with our burdensome requirement for voters to find a notary or two witnesses to vote by mail,” she said. “Several states have taken the common-sense step of removing these requirements this year. By not addressing the mail ballot legislation passed by the House, the Senate has given voters an unnecessary hurdle to casting a ballot by mail during the pandemic.”