COAL TOWNSHIP — More poll workers are needed in Northumberland County for the primary election on May 18, according to county Board of Elections Chief Registrar Nathan Savidge.

The county needs approximately 350 poll workers for 74 precincts, including judges of election, but has approximately 75 percent, said Savidge at a training session in the county jail complex in Coal Township on Thursday. The training will continue today and next week.

“It’s a great way to see how the elections work behind the scenes,” said Savidge. “It’s a great way to meet your local community and give back.”

Mount Carmel and Kulpmont have the biggest need followed by Milton and Shamokin. The positions are paid and require the poll worker to be available the whole day on May 18, said Savidge.

Many judges of election retired after the 2020 election and some of the usual poll workers are still hesitant to work Election Day due to COVID-19, he said.

The judge of election oversees the polling place as the highest-ranking official at each location. They are in charge of opening the machines, getting them ready for voting, keeping order at the pools and getting those machines back by the end of the night, said Savidge.To apply to be a poll worker, call the election office at 570-988-4209.

Training session

During the training sessions on Thursday, Savidge and Drew Ayers, of Elections Systems and Software, went over how to use the machines, which were used for the first time during the primary election in 2020. He discussed safety, protocols and etiquette for Election Day for voters and workers.

Voters are encouraged to wear masks, but the county does not have an enforcement mechanism. If a voter comes in and refuses to wear a mask, Savidge said voters are still allowed to cast their vote and then the poll workers should sanitize the machines after use.

Each polling station will have face shields, masks, paper towels, wipes, sprays bottles of sanitizers, personal hand sanitizer bottles, gloves and other standard boxes of PPE. At least two sneeze guards will be provided per polling station, said Savidge.

Worker: ‘A little concerned

Deborah Smeltzer, 72, of Ralpho Township, assumed the role of judge of election for the first time for Ralpho Township after working the polls for five years. Other workers in that precinct retired and don’t want to work due to COVID, she said.

“I was a little concerned,” said Smeltzer about working the last two elections. “My son-in-law got me an N-95 mask and it made me feel safer. It was very busy last year.”

Smeltzer didn’t anticipate as many people this year. She guessed maybe 150 people compared to more than 400 in the general election.

Penelope Murphy, of Coal Township, has been a judge of election for nearly 30 years and a poll worker for more than 50 years. She said she was not nervous last year and was upset about all the jamming issues of the new machines in the general election.

Savidge said the jamming issues have been addressed by Elections Systems and Software and should not be a problem for this election.

Union County will usually have between 130 to 150 poll workers and this election they have 145, according to Union County Election Coordinator and Registrar Gregory A. Katherman.

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