Not Too Late to Work at Polls

Nothing can turn off an American voter more than long lines and confusion on election day.

That's why it's crucial that polling stations across the country be staffed with well-trained workers - and enough of them.

Poll-worker shortages are a perennial problem. But election officials are especially concerned about this year because of expected high turnout and new demands on workers.

When the year started, the nation was short about a half million poll workers, according to the federal Election Assistance Commission. Some of that gap has presumably been filled, but the Commission doesn't know by how much. Especially worrisome are high-density areas and places where translation help is needed.

It's not easy to entice people to work a 12- to 14-hour day for low pay, and the commission has stepped up efforts to help states by providing $750,000 for recruiting, including at companies and college campuses.

Mostly it's seniors who tend the polls. These public-spirited citizens have the time and desire to devote to civic service, but some of them may not be keen on dealing with the technology of new computer voting machines, new procedures such as provisional ballots now required in all 50 states, or the army of poll observers which both parties are dispatching to watch for potential irregularities.

States are getting creative, offering non-voting-age high-school students a crack at the job, for instance, or considering split shifts for poll workers. Some employers will make Nov. 2 a paid holiday (perhaps a model for the nation?). In many places, poll workers can sign up as late as Nov. 1 (click on Give it a try, and help make every vote count.

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