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Sitting at their round table at 8:30 a.m. in the St. Ambrose School in Spring Hill, all six workers at the 24th Ward, 1st District polling precinct were already bored.
With only fifteen votes cast in the first 90 minutes, Judge of Elections Joan Urschler said she expected a low turnout.
What they were more worried about was the fact that since all six of them were planning on retiring after this election, there weren’t enough folks interested in replacing them.
“We been doing this for so many years, but now we’re tired of it,” Urschler said.
Each precinct’s election board is made up of a judge of elections, a minority and majority inspector, a minority and majority clerk and a constable. The six individuals carry out various roles in the process, explaining voting machines to voters, signing the necessary paperwork and making sure precincts remain peaceful and bipartisan.
Most of the group said their precinct retirements were due to the county’s ever-changing approach to elections.
Margaret Kirch, the precinct’s majority inspector, has worked at the 24th Ward, 1st District for about 30 years, which is common among most of the precinct’s workers.
“I’m quitting because of all the stuff that the town demands of you,” Kirch said.
She said that the county demands too much from prospective precinct workers.
An interested candidate must gather five signed petitions, get them notarized at her own expense, and send the paperwork to the Elections Division of Allegheny County who puts her name on the primary ballot. Then a similar process is undertaken for the general election.
Kirch complained that precinct workers only get paid a few dollars, about $20 according to newer poll workers, to take the introductory class. But after the first year, workers don’t get paid for yearly refresher courses.
“I’m older now, and I don’t want to go through this static,” Kirch said.
Urschler said the county gives her 50 provincial ballots and 50 emergency ballots for problems that might arise from voter’s names not showing up on official rolls.
But all the extra ballots and nuanced processes are unnecessary and confusing, Urschler said.
To find replacements, the poll workers canvassed incoming voters to sign up to run for the election board next year. But after two hours, the list only had a single name.