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Data “Deep Dive” Shows Level of Difficulty in Recruiting Poll Workers, Decline in Physical Polling Places

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Silver Spring, Md. – The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released a brief today that shows a decline in the number of physical polling places across the country, the continued challenges jurisdictions report facing in recruiting poll workers, and age data for poll workers. This is the third in a series of “deep dives” into election administration trends and voting behavior ahead of the 2018 election cycle. The brief analyzes data from the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), the most comprehensive survey on election administration in the United States identifying national, state and local trends.
“Recruiting, training, managing and retaining poll workers is constantly on the minds of election officials who are always looking for ways to strengthen their processes,” said EAC Director of Research Sean Greene, who leads the EAVS. “Whether an official is seeking to improve poll-worker recruitment, or implementing alternative voting options that could decrease the need for physical polling places, the EAVS data can serve as a resource about how such initiatives have impacted election administration in other states.”  

The findings released in today’s brief include: 

  • During the 2016 elections, local election officials operated 116,990 polling places, including 8,616 early voting locations, across the country. These polling sites were operated by 917,694 poll workers.
  • Nearly 65 percent of jurisdictions reported that it was “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to obtain a sufficient number of poll workers.
  • There has been a continued decrease in physical polling places, which can likely be explained by the expansion of alternative voting options, the increased use of these options by voters, and the corresponding decrease in in-person voters on Election Day.
  • More populous jurisdictions faced greater challenges when recruiting poll workers.
  • Of the age data reported for approximately 53 percent of poll workers who served in 2016, 24 percent of poll workers were 71 or older and another 32 percent were between the ages of 61 and 70.

The EAC conducts the EAVS to meet its Help America Vote Act of 2002 charge to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information with respect to the administration of federal elections. Additionally, the EAVS fulfills EAC data collection requirements contained in both the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).

For more information about the EAVS Deep Dives or to speak with Greene, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at [email protected] or 202-897-9285. 

Read the full EAVS Deep Dive on Poll Workers and Polling Places

Read the previous EAVS Deep Dives on Registering to Vote and Early, Absentee and Mail Voting

Read the 2016 EAVS REPORT.

Visit the 2016 EAVS WEBPAGE containing state-specific data and other resources.


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The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with ensuring secure, accurate and accessible elections by developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as administers the use of HAVA funds. For more information, visit  

data, election administration, election administration and voting survey  (EAVS), media, media/public relations, poll workers, polling place