PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The November election is less than two months away — 53 days to be exact — and some are concerned the increase in pay for poll workers in Philadelphia is attracting elderly people who may be at risk for contracting COVID-19.
The average age of poll workers in Philadelphia is 60. So many turned away from doing the job for this year’s November election because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the recent increase in poll worker pay is too much for some to turn down.
“$250 for a day’s work is a lot of money for families in need,” Kairol Rosenthal, of Fairmount Votes, said.
Rosenthal is working to fill some of the gaps in the citywide shortage of poll workers in Philadelphia.
Over at a polling location on the 1800 block of Brandywine Street, four of five poll workers are staying home instead of working the election because of the health pandemic.
But the recent increase in poll worker pay, that’s now $250 in Philadelphia, is changing some people’s minds.
“There are people at risk for COVID who are choosing to work the polls because this year there’s an increase of pay for the COVID risk,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal is not the only one worried about the health of older people working polls on Election Day.
“They tend to be high-risk senior citizens,” Anthony Barone said.
Barone, of Center City, says after hearing about seniors signing with the lure of the higher pay, he put out a call to action. He’s asking young, healthy adults to not only step up and become a poll worker with him, but to help older poll workers who he says should maybe stay home this Election Day amid the pandemic.
“A couple of my friends and I, we have all volunteered to be poll workers for the very first time and we’re fortunately in the position where we don’t have a financial need. So we wanted to almost adopt these poll workers so we can donate our salary to them, so they can stay home and stay safe,” Barone said.
Already a pool of Barone’s friends is committing to donate their $250 of the money they earn as poll workers to seniors who can’t work Election Day. If there’s any leftover cash, Barone says they’ll donate it.
“It’s really an important, easy way to help out,” Barone said. “It’ll be a long day but if it can get more people to vote and make voting access easier and raise money for charity, I think it’ll be an awesome day.”
Peggy O’Donnell, 63, has been a poll worker since about 2004 in Spring Garden.
“I do it because it is how democracy works, it’s democracy in action,” O’Donnell said.
But she has concerns around COVID-19, so she will only show up to be a poll worker “if there aren’t enough people and if I’m needed.”
To contact Barone if you want to donate to his campaign or if you know of a senior who needs financial help, his Instagram handle is Abarone1604 or email Anthonymbarone@gmail.com.