500,000 Americans Sign Up To Be Poll Workers After Shortages Due To COVID-19

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One of the most critical elections in history is just 38 days away. The 2020 election comes not only during an incredibly polarizing time in the United States, but it is the first election being held in the middle of a global pandemic. Though states are allowing its voters to vote by mail to spare them from having to leave their houses in the midst of a public health crisis, doubts surrounding the U.S. Postal Service’s ability to deliver ballots on time has motivated many to decide to vote in person on November 3.

Voting in person means that poll workers, people who are responsible for orderly voting at polling stations, are more important than ever. Typically, these workers are predominantly older citizens, but many have decided not to volunteer this year because of COVID-19 concerns.

The attention now turns to millennials, who are stepping up in place of their parents and grandparents. Sources indicate a record number of residents in their 20s and 30s have signed up to fill the positions vacated by the veteran workers. Many of these individuals were not initially aware of the job before seeing the opportunity learning about the issue on social media. One such initiative, Power the Polls, has encouraged people across the nation to help volunteer on Election Day and is asking companies to give their employees off so they can help work the polling stations.

Power the Polls announced Friday that they have now had 500,000 people sign up, double their initial goal of 250,000 volunteers. More than 100,000 people alone signed up in the first three days of September, coinciding with National Poll Worker Recruitment Day. To sign up, prospective volunteers can simply navigate to their website to fill out a short form, and the nonprofit will connect them with their local jurisdiction.

Power the Polls co-director Scott Duncombe described the effort to recruit younger poll workers not just because they are at a lower risk for COVID-19, but also because they are more tech-savvy and diverse than those who have volunteered as poll workers in the past. “When voters see young people working the polls who look like them, it can be a nice way to ease them into voting,” Duncombe said. “We are hopeful that this is the start of a new civic tradition.” And many of the young poll workers say they feel relatively safe from the worst effects of COVID-19, given both their age and the precautions local election officials are taking, such as providing protective equipment and implementing physical distancing rules.

Civic engagement efforts, such as Power the Polls, will help increase the voter turnout on Election Day, especially motivating younger generations to come out and exercise their right to vote.