What I’m watching/listening to/reading: with absentee voting starting yesterday, I am in full-blown election mode
Poll workers, also known as election judges, supervisors, or clerks, are the lifeblood of any election. For states with large in-person voting turnout, they run polling places, check in voters, and manage ballots. Even if largely vote-by-mail states, election judges are involved in processing and counting of ballots. Elections literally can’t happen without the assistance of thousands of poll worker volunteers across the country. That’s why it can be extremely stressful to wake up to headlines like America’s Poll Worker Shortage Is a Brewing Crisis and Officials seek thousands of poll workers ahead of Election Day, fear shortage due to COVID-19.
Attracting poll workers is inherently difficult–they work a 12+ hour day and attend various training sessions, they usually require reliable transportation, and they’re the front line for contentious or unhappy voters. While it IS a paid position, most people sign up and continue working subsequent elections because they enjoy the volunteerism and playing an important role in our democracy. However, if you look at the demographics, a commonly-known trend appears: most poll workers are of retirement age (since it’s hard to take time off on a random Tuesday) and the pool needs to be diversified.
While we’re seeing dozens of companies step up to encourage their employees to take a (paid) day off to serve as a poll worker, at least one city is offering that same benefit to staff (or actively discussing an ordinance to do so). It’s a plan that makes sense–local government is a natural wellspring of civically-minded staff and one of the tricky things about working for a city is that it’s often hard to find a way to get involved in elections. There can be ethical, personal, and political concerns about helping out a campaign or volunteering with a political party, but one thing that nearly any person can do is work at a polling place on Election Day.
Local government relies on an engaged community, which requires active participation in our democracy. Take the time today to reach out to your local election authority and see if they still need poll workers for November. Tell your friends to do the same. There’s less than 50 days to go!