Milwaukee poll worker training ramps up as Election Day nears

With the Nov. 3 election now three weeks away, Milwaukee election officials said plenty of people have signed up to work the polls. Now, it's about follow-through.

It's not just about showing up, officials said, but knowing how to help voters on Election Day -- including registering them to vote, if applicable, and checking them in. That's why the next several weeks of training are crucial.

As the leaves start to fall and October's days disappear, Nov. 3 comes into clearer focus.

"We are receiving thousands of applications, hundreds every day," said Jonatan Zuniga, Milwaukee Election Commission deputy director.

Milwaukee polling site amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Zuniga said, as of Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2,500 new poll workers and roughly 1,000 returning workers have signed up to work.

"They play a very important role in our elections," Zuniga said.

Zuniga said an April election to remember -- with only five polling sites open in Milwaukee -- brought to people's attention what a shortage of workers could look like as well as other challenges of holding elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"How do we keep everyone safe at the polling site...poll workers and voters?" said Zuniga.

Zuniga said the Milwaukee Election Commission needs at least 2,400 workers to staff 173 polling places in the city, but must prepare for no-shows -- a rate he said sits at about 20%.

"Having to also staff additional poll workers at each location to take care of disinfecting areas commonly used by voters," Zuniga said. "Our goal is to train and assign 2,900 poll workers for the November election."

Zuniga urges those who have registered to work to complete training, pick up their manual and show up when it counts. He said new poll workers must complete a two-hour virtual training course, while returning poll workers need to take a training refresher course every two years. 

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Election workers in Milwaukee have been given 19 virtual training sessions to choose from. Those started on Oct. 1.

Milwaukee Election Day manual

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