WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Every election takes a lot of help. In 2020, Warren County hired around 70 people to work the polls on election day.

Then, and now in 2022, there are always open slots to fill. The county is putting a call out this week for people who want to make a difference by working the polls at the midterm elections later this year. Technically speaking, they have enough as it is, but the county is stretching thin.

“We have had to maneuver and put in some of our per diem staff to cover,” said Beth McLaughlin, the county’s Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner. “For instance, last November we had one poll site where three people called out. There were five scheduled to work there. It took some doing, but we got it covered.”

In June and November, Warren County’s 21 voting sites will be open for midterm elections – primary and proper, respectively. They range in size. For example, at the West Glens Falls Fire House, around 15 poll workers operate under two coordinators.

There’s less range in age. That’s a fact the county wants to change, and commissioners are putting out a special call for younger people to help work the polls.

“They can be a 17-year-old high schooler, once they get trained and certified,” said William VanNess, Republican Board of Elections Commissioner. “It’s nice to have some longevity from inspectors, and things have become very complicated with these newer voting machines.”

Most poll workers average between 60s and 70s in age. Statewide, over 55% of all poll workers are over the age of 60. In the era of COVID-19, when people in those age groups are considered highly vulnerable, spending a whole day in a heavily-trafficked public building is a huge risk factor. That’s why some standby workers are not coming back, and why the commissioners hope to get some younger blood in the mix.

“Our inspectors are very reliable, very dependable, but then when something like this hits, they get scared. You can’t blame them,” said VanNess.

Poll workers are paid, albeit for just a couple days of training and work per year. The job requires more than just saying hello to neighbors coming in to cast their votes. Poll employees set up and tear down polling places, sign people in, and help people understand how to use different voting machines.

The job requires yearly training. That, too, has changed over the last two years, with some parts of the training process run virtually. Coordinators at each poll site make sure that every worker gets the hands-on training they need, even if some things are conveyed online. The hands-on aspect is crucial, especially as counties like Warren introduce more new machines.

More than enough ballots to go around

That adoption of new machines has been difficult for some workers, but is crucial for Warren County and others like it. Warren County has recently introduced on-demand polling options, where voters sign a poll book, and then receive a freshly-printed ballot just for them. New York State requires that all counties purchase physical ballots for 110% of their registered voters.

“We need to cover that, not knowing what the turnout is,” said McLaughlin. “It could be a small percentage of that.”

Warren County has roughly 47,000 registered voters, which requires over 51,000 ballots have to be ordered if there’s no alternative. That can lead to a lot of waste.

“What happens is we get multiple packages of ballots returned to us,” said VanNess. “They sit here for weeks, and then they get shredded. It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars, having those sitting there.”

Those interested in signing up can do so online through the state Department of Elections. VanNess and McLaughlin have already received a few candidate applications this week, and hope to see many more before training days in May and August. New York’s midterm primary day is June 28, and midterm election day is Nov. 8.