BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Millions of Americans are using early voting to their advantage in this year’s election; but as this pandemic has led to that unprecedented number of voters, it has also caused a challenge – a lack of poll workers.
COVID-19 has created a shortage of volunteers. A 2018 study show the majority of polling volunteers are 60-years-old and above, meaning they’re more at risk of severe illness if they test positive for the coronavirus. This has led to some places cutting down on their number of election sites to make up for the loss of volunteers.
But in Western New York, we’re seeing the opposite as hundreds of people have stepped up to volunteer.
“We didn’t do much recruitment – we didn’t need to,” said Chautauqua County Republican Election Commissioner Brian Abram. “It just seemed like people thought, ‘you know they need help and I’m willing to step up and do my part.’ So we’ve been very fortunate with the civic-minded individuals.”
Erie County Democratic Election Commissioner Jeremy Zellner said he’s seen a surge of election inspector requests for people who have never done it before.
Beth Carey is one of them. The 72-year-old Colden resident grew up seeing her mother and aunt volunteer as poll workers every year. She says she wanted to do it herself this year in order to make the voting process run as smoothly as possible.
“I thought, well, if they have a lot of volunteers or new people signing up it could make the process go a little better,” she said. “Even at 72-years-old, I’m willing to spend a very long day in a mask to make sure that the day goes well for everyone.”
Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.