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IA Asks for More 'Local Heroes' to Work Elections

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022   

Election authorities in Iowa and around the country are calling attention to the need for more poll workers.

Tuesday was National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, but Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said he hopes the message is conveyed throughout the year, especially with a June primary and midterm elections this fall. He said even before the pandemic, some older, long-time poll workers were stepping back from their duties. At a time when the voting process has been heavily debated in states such as Iowa, Pate described these individuals as "local heroes," with no partisan leanings in their jobs.

"They're your friends and neighbors," he said. "These are the people that have eyes on the entire process, from the beginning to the end, to ensure that you're having the kinds of elections you want."

He said shortages tend to come up in rural areas. His office said Iowa has a base of roughly 10,000 poll workers, but it hopes that number can grow to around 12,000. Pate said that would make it easier for county auditors to staff elections.

As the outcome of the 2020 presidential election was contested in some states, election workers reported a more threatening environment from angry voters. Pate doesn't see that as a major problem in Iowa, but he said they take the issue seriously.

"We do work with our county auditors to make sure we have various training programs put together to deal with the scenarios," he said.

Those possibilities include threats of physical harm toward election workers. With increased outreach in the past couple years, the office said, auditors have reported seeing more poll workers younger than age 60 sign up. Pate said that coincides with record voting among people ages 18 to 25.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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