With fears of coronavirus infections gripping older Americans who are typically responsible for checking voters in and out of polling locations, communities across the country are asking high school students and young adults to embrace civic engagement and gain education credits. Poll workers can be as young as 16.
Lawyers, teachers, and other professionals who have the time and inclination are also asked to step up.
In the 2018 midterm elections, six of 10 U.S. poll workers were over age 60. That’s an indication of the importance. If there are less workers, there will be longer lines to get into polling locations. Understaffed locations may have to close.
Here are some quotes from seven states…
“We need 39,870 people for Election Day and early voting, and we don’t have anywhere near that. We have 13,021 vacant positions, 32% statewide… The hardest thing that we have to do in any election is to recruit election judges. And in this year, it’s impossible.”– David Garreis, president of Maryland Association of Election Officials
“We lost poll workers. One, they didn’t want to take their health at risk. They weren’t sure about the protections that would be offered to them. And many of our poll workers that are traditionally poll workers are older. And that’s a health issue, but we also have new machines, and the technology is scary for some people.”– Gayla Keesee, voter services chair for the League of Women Voters
“If you are a state, county or municipal employee, a teacher, a student or someone who is looking for temporary work, municipal clerks need you to step up and help right now.”– Meagan Wolfe, elections director
“When we don’t have enough workers, that’s when we get lines, and so trying to prepare ahead of time for people dropping out is something that we’re trying to do.”– Sara Knotts, Brunswick County election director
“I believe that where there is chaos, there’s also opportunity, and this could be an opportunity for young people to understand that the baton must be passed.”– Liz Miranda, State Representative
“The pandemic has exacerbated challenges around financial stability, physical and mental health and family responsibilities for young people, as for everyone else… But for those who have the time and ability to volunteer, the process is relatively easy and has few requirements. In addition, almost all poll workers are compensated for their work, although the amount depends on your state and local jurisdiction.”– Maya Patel, voting rights activist
“Now it’s time for those who have not participated in the past, it’s their turn to step up and administer democracy and make sure we all have a fair and efficient election.”– Sherry Poland, Hamilton County election director