L.A. County tries to fill ‘urgent need’ for poll workers

Patricia Mitchell cannot vote in the United States, but the Topanga Canyon resident from England will be assisting voters casting ballots as a poll worker in the statewide primary election on June 3.

With a state Assembly bill allowing permanent legal residents to serve as poll workers in effect since January, Los Angeles County election officials are hopeful that this sizable demographic will help fill “an urgent need” at polling stations throughout the county.

“I want to vote as soon as I’m a citizen,” Mitchell, a 52-year-old life coach who will be eligible to apply for citizenship by the end of the year, said during a training session for poll worker clerks in Calabasas on Wednesday. “I just thought it was a perfect opportunity to understand the system more.”

Officials have reached out to various community groups to make sure they are aware of the change in the law, which significantly expands the pool of people who can be tapped to serve and provide language assistance at the polls, said Efrain Escobedo, government affairs manager for the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.

With the county about 1,250 poll workers still short as of Wednesday, election officials have also turned to new methods of recruitment — from automated telephone calls, to emails, to asking cities to recruit their own employees — to try to plug the gap. The automated calls and emails have been going out to registered voters in specific communities where the need is greatest, Escobedo said.

“People don’t want to volunteer or don’t find it important enough to volunteer, so we’re amplifying our efforts, trying to reach out through different methods,” Escobedo said. “If they’re not answering their phone, let’s send them an email.”

Read more in Brenda Gazzar’s story POLLS.

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