‘What You Need to Know:’ election time again, this time with too few poll workers and COVID in Northampton County Prison

Written by on September 24, 2021

‘What You Need to Know:’ election time again, this time with too few poll workers and COVID in Northampton County Prison

By Jen Rehill and Brad Klein

September 24, 2021

Photo by Unsplash

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with WLVR’s News Director, Jen Rehill, about the week’s top local news. This week: A look at mail-in and absentee ballots, their deadlines, and how to request them; a shortage of poll workers that could impact election day and getting timely results in November; and the latest update on Covid cases in Northampton County Prison

Listen to the story

Brad Klein

“Hi Jen.”

Jen Rehill

“Hey there, Brad.”

Klein

“Well , Election Day, Nov. 2, is not that far away. And we started this Friday feature series last year to clarify the sometimes confusing rules and deadlines around voting in Pennsylvania. 

“This week, we reported that Northampton County has set four locations for ballot boxes and they’ll be open a week from Monday, [Oct. 4].”

Rehill

“Voters can deposit their mail in ballots and absentee ballots in boxes at the rotunda at the Northampton County Government Center, the Northampton County Human Services Building in Bethlehem. The Northampton County 911 Center in Nazareth and Bethlehem City Hall.” 

Klein

“So the state has both mail in and absentee ballots. What’s the difference? And is it too late to request them?” 

Rehill

“It’s not too late to request them. Registered voters have until Oct. 26 to apply for either a mail-in ballot or an absentee ballot. Now, it’s important to remember that with mail-in ballots which were new in 2019, you do not have to have a reason. You just apply for it and you can vote by mail. That is now you’re right in Pennsylvania.

“An absentee ballot kind of predates the mail in ballots and that’s for folks who are away on Election Day or have a disability or an illness and want to supply that reason. So as I said, the deadline for both is Oct. 26 and the best resource for getting more information about that is the state website that’s Vote.PA.gov.” 

Klein

“As an aside, I was happy that it changed from VotesPA.com, which always felt a little wrong to me, to a ‘.gov’ website . What about Lehigh County? Anything we need to know differently there?” 

Rehill

“We haven’t heard yet where their ballot boxes are going to be set up, but we do expect that they will be, but on Tuesday [Sept. 28], its National Voter Registration Day and there will be a table at the Lehigh County Government Center to help residents who want to register to vote.”

Klein

“In a story that involves both politics and pandemic, we reported this week that some precincts are having a hard time finding the poll workers they need for Election Day.” 

Rehill

Department of State Deputy Secretary Jonathan Marks said this week that some poll workers have stopped signing up for the job because of the COVID-19 pandemic and others have quit because of harassment from groups who incorrectly believed that last fall’s election was fraudulent. We have some tape from him on that. Let’s hear that:” 

Jonathan Marks

“These are your friends, your neighbors, people you go to church with, and I think that provides some built-in assurance that the people who are running elections in those local precincts are going to be doing it on the up-and-up.”

Rehill

“So that’s Deputy Secretary Marks trying to reassure folks that it’s safe to be a poll worker. And for those who are interested in the job, it is a paid position. You can go to your county website or that new state website that I mentioned.” 

Klein

“Experts have been concerned about prisons and jails since the start of the pandemic. And WLVR’s Tyler Pratt has been keeping an eye on the situation for us, particularly in the Northampton County Prison. What’s the latest information there?” 

Rehill

“Well Brad, you recall last week we saw a bit of a spike in a delta outbreak at the Northampton County Prison. About half of the jails blocks were in quarantine after 30 plus inmates and staff tested positive. Now, the good news is case numbers appear to be going down. In response to the outbreak the jail did implement what I guess you could describe as a partial vaccine mandate for outside vendors. 

“That said, the majority of corrections officers in the facility are not vaccinated and there’s no mandate for them. The county is working with the union on education and a $500 per person incentive. But their concern is if they had a mandate that people would leave and there’s already difficulty staffing the prison.” 

Klein

“I think we’ve seen throughout this pandemic that there is substantial vaccine hesitancy even among groups that are very likely to be exposed to COVID like health care workers and, in this case, employees of the prison.

“Well, thanks for joining us, Jen.” 

Rehill

“Thank you, Brad.” 

Klein

“That’s Jen Rehill, news director here at WLVR. For more of ‘What You Need to Know,’ sign up for our weekly newsletter at WLVR.org.”


News

Current track

Title

Artist

Background