Allegheny County struggled to train poll workers and keep up with public questions during hectic November election

Report by resident group finds gaps in training led to procedural errors at the polls. Report does not allege any problem with final result.

by Charlie Wolfson

Allegheny County’s administration of the November 2020 election suffered from inconsistent poll worker training and public communication, among other errors, a new report showed. The county has not outlined plans to address the problems.

“By putting an emphasis on systems, we wanted to make the county implicitly and explicitly more accountable,” said Juliet Zavon, the report’s primary author. “What is the level of competency required of poll workers in this county?”

The report was produced by the Elections Task Force, which Zavon described as an independent group of local residents with expertise in cybersecurity and election administration. The document describes an antiquated poll worker management system, a lack of training for many poll workers and insufficient means for the public to ask questions and learn about voting.

The report makes no allegation that the integrity of the 2020 election was compromised or that there was fraud. It outlines recommendations for the county to revamp its process, calling for greater transparency and communication, improved training procedures, among other investments, with just three months until a May primary election. 

A spokesperson for Allegheny County declined to comment on the report but the county elections manager, David Voye, answered questions from PublicSource about the county’s system.

Recruitment and training

A third of all poll workers received no training prior to the Nov. 3 election. Allegheny County Elections Manager David Voye said in an email to PublicSource that the COVID-19 pandemic and the 25-person indoor gathering limit forced the county to abandon its pre-pandemic standard of training each poll worker. County officials said last fall that every worker would have access to online training, but that training was never provided.

“I voted” stickers at a satellite elections office at the South Park Ice Rink. Voters there could request and fill out mail-in ballots before Election Day. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

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Allegheny County struggled to train poll workers and keep up with public questions during hectic November election

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