Impact Stories:

A Community Benefit: Keeping Voters Safe and Midterm Elections Humming

When you voted this time, what you saw on the ballot might be as important as what you didn’t see at all.

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Everyone deserves to feel safe when voting
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Everyone deserves to feel safe when votingcollaboration with other interfaith groupscollaboration with other interfaith groupscollaboration with other interfaith groups
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Everyone deserves to feel safe when voting

In a time of rising antisemitism and threats to democracy, what you didn’t see was the additional security measures Jewish agencies and synagogues put in place. These locations continue to serve as polling places despite the increased threat tempo. Everyone deserves to feel safe when voting, regardless of their background, beliefs or identity—so the Jewish Federation stepped in to advance a more just, secure and inclusive society.

Knowing that the risk of an attack increases with non-members entering Jewish buildings, the Federation’s Countering Active Threat training (CATT) enhanced security at the Jewish agency and synagogue polling sites. We also recruited poll workers in partnership with the Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) Center for Loving Kindness.

“As a precaution, we work with our individual polling places on emergency preparedness to ensure they have appropriate protocols in place in the event of a threat or civil disturbance. We do this in an abundance of caution. If a threat or disturbance does occur, our polling locations have to be prepared to shelter in place or evacuate depending on the nature of the emergency,” -Federation’s Director of Community Security Shawn Brokos.

Brokos and Community Security Associate Erin Fagan taught CATT training to five polling locations to prepare for election day. Security considerations included:

  • Reviewing potential threats to elections on social media
  • Coordination with law enforcement
  • Reporting suspicious behavior and collaboration with other interfaith groups in the event of civil unrest or emergency

The Federation also partnered with the JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness to find volunteer poll workers.

“We have recruited 36 Upstanders — neighbors who know that we must be active in our community — to apply to be poll workers across Allegheny County. It wasn’t hard to recruit so many. Neighbors connected to the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement know how important this work is. Working with the county, those who will serve on election day will be trained to ensure that every vote cast will make its way into the count,” said Rabbi Ron Symons at the JCC’s Center for Loving Kindness.

For those who want to get involved in the community, poll worker recruitment can be a great outlet. “Signing up to be a poll worker is a wonderful way to contribute to our democracy and play a role in ensuring that our elections are free and accessible,” said the Federation’s Community Relations Council Director Laura Cherner.

These election staffing and security measures—along with our other work on security, advocacy, outreach and programming—are essential to the Jewish community in this heightened security risk environment and wouldn’t be possible without your support. If you would like to contribute, please consider donating to the Community Campaign to help end antisemitism, hate and discrimination.

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