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Election Day poll workers sign in a voter in Sussex County. (Photo: Sussex County Board of Elections).

Possible shortage of Election Day poll workers anticipated, election officials say

Assembly recessed without approving pay hike and new early voting expands the number of says board workers are needed

By David Wildstein, July 28 2021 2:21 pm

New Jersey election officials are projecting a shortage of poll workers for the November general election, especially with the implementation of a new law establishing early in-person voting.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the early voting law in March requiring election officials to operate early voting centers in the nine days preceding a general election.  During those periods, early voting centers must be open from 10 AM to 8 PM, Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, the polls would close at 6 PM.

That creates an added demand of staffing polling locations for an extra nine days, as well as a need to train Election Day workers to use new electronic poll books and high-speed printers, something that could challenge the technological skills of poll workers who are typically older.

New Jersey never reached its full complement of Election Day workers for the June primary election and was offering bonuses until the day before.

The state has over 3,100 polling locations and a need for over 12,500 Election Day workers across the state.

On June 30, the State Senate approved a bill to raise the pay of Election Day workers from $200 to $400, with an additional $50 stipend for training on early voting machines, but the Assembly didn’t act on the measure before recessing until after the November election.  The bill was sponsored by State Sens. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) and James Beach (D-Voorhees).

There appear to be two options available beyond doing nothing: Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin can the Assembly back into session and approve the legislation, or Murphy can raise poll worker pay through an executive order.

But Coughlin appears to have ruled that out, leaving Murphy holding the ball.

“The Speaker recognizes and appreciates the important work that our poll workers do, and it is the Speaker’s intent to consider the legislation at the next time the Assembly takes legislative action,” said Cecilia Williams, a spokesperson for Coughlin.

Three election officials told the New Jersey Globe that heightened alerts over the Delta variant will make it tougher to recruit election workers, particularly with more seniors avoiding crowded public events and many college students back on campus in the fall.

Individuals willing to serve as poll workers may apply online at: https://nj.gov/state/elections/pollworker.shtml.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji’s bill to allow minors to serve as Election Day workers between 5:30 AM and 9 PM passed the State Assembly on June 24, but has not yet been considered by the full Senate.

The current state law, sponsored by then-Assemblyman Thomas Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) in 2002, allows 16 and 17-year-old to work eight-hours on Election Day, with the consent of a parent and a school official.

Murphy said on Monday that he things in-person voting will be “ready to go” by November 2.

This story was updated at 3:20 PM with comment from Coughlin.

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