By Jack Firneno
Wire Managing Editor
The Bucks County Commissioner is looking for ways to draw more volunteers to work at polling places during elections.
Bucks County wants to change the way you think about poll workers.
Facing regular shortages of clerks and other personnel to work at polling places on Election Day, Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia has been working with poll workers and local officials to attract more volunteers for election days. While she confirmed that polls will be adequately staffed for next week’s election, she will soon be introducing new programs to avoid future shortages.
“We rolled out a few small things now, and will start the bigger programs after the first of the year,” said Marseglia. For now, the Board of Elections is using signage like a big poster of Uncle Sam asking people to volunteer to be a poll worker, and new fliers that Marseglia distributes whenever she makes a public appearance.
These are the first small efforts in what will be a comprehensive campaign that Marseglia hopes will redefine the volunteer aspect of Election Day workers. In September, she met with 12 volunteers from across the county at the Doylestown Library. The group comprised poll workers, election judges and members of the League of Women Voters to brainstorm new ways to attract volunteers. Their suggestions were formalized into recommendations that Marseglia took to the Board of Elections and had approved earlier this month.
“This needs to become a civic mindset,” said Bill Rosson, a judge of elections, at the September meeting. “Right now, it’s just ‘someone else’s job’ to a lot of people. We need to foster a greater sense of community.”
Using ideas from previous meetings, the group examined ways to emphasize volunteerism and civic duty in its new outreach plans. The two major facets of their plan are the “A Day with Democracy” and “Donate a Day to Democracy” programs, aimed at the county’s top employers and non-profit organizations, respectively.
Drawing similarities between poll workers and jury duty, businesses will be encouraged to pay employees for a full shift if they worked at a polling place. Employees will be encouraged to sign over their paycheck for working the polls to their employer to offset their day’s pay. With the “Donate” program, Bucks residents will be encouraged to work a day at the polls and donate their pay to the charity of their choice.
“It could be a way to attract people that say they always wanted to donate but never felt like they had the money or the time,” explained Marseglia.
For this election, Marseglia said she also addressed problems that some poll workers faced during the Primary Day elections in May. On that date, some poll watchers were reportedly harassing the people assigned to work the polls and assist voters.
“There was a problem in Bristol, where some watchers were being very contentious,” she admitted. To remedy this, Marseglia updated and verified the Rules and Regulations for Watchers manual in anticipation of this Election Day. “Everyone has a copy of it,” she said, and it will also be posted at all polling locations. “We want to make sure everyone knows their roles, and what the rules are.”