US needs poll workers, now more than ever - GulfToday

US needs poll workers, now more than ever

Poll worker Angela Steele mans the check-in desk near rows of empty ballot boxes at the Allegheny County Election Warehouse after the election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. File/Reuters

Poll worker Angela Steele mans the check-in desk near rows of empty ballot boxes at the Allegheny County Election Warehouse after the election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. File/Reuters

Marta Hanson, Tribune News Service

Now that the 2024 presidential nominees for both major parties have been decided, what promises to be a truly historic campaign is in full swing. And while primary elections will continue across the country through early fall, including important votes to pick nominees for gubernatorial and congressional races, the national attention is rapidly shifting toward mobilising voters for Nov. 5, Election Day. But voting, while a crucial means of participating in our democracy, is far from the only way to get involved. Instead of spending the next several months worrying about the state of our democracy or waiting to cast a ballot, there’s a crucial step that many of us can and should take to support our elections: signing up to be a poll worker.

At Power the Polls, we’re proud to be the national, nonpartisan leader in the effort to recruit poll workers and help ensure fair, secure and accessible elections across the country. Since our founding in 2020, we’ve mobilised just shy of one million people across all 50 states who want to support elections as poll workers (sometimes called temporary election workers or election judges) in their communities. To ensure the 2024 elections run as smoothly as possible, we anticipate we’ll need at least that many people to sign up again. Poll workers are the face of our elections. They’re the first to show up during early voting or on Election Day, and they spend the day checking in voters, handing out “I voted” stickers, and ensuring everything runs smoothly. More than anything, poll workers get to ensure voting is a positive, empowering experience for every voter. As one poll worker shared with us, “I LOVE that my precinct stops and cheers, hoots and hollers, whenever a first-time voter checks in. Every poll worker, all 13 of us, clap!” Becoming a poll worker is also about more than just one election: It’s an opportunity to build bridges at the local level to strengthen our democracy in lasting ways. As another poll worker shared: “Every day I left the vote center with great hope — that even as people asked questions and expressed their fear or dismay at the state of affairs, they still believed that casting a vote was the best possible option for them to ensure their voice was heard … I got to witness the real power of our democracy.” Another noted, “It’s a testament to our communities and our system that volunteers (are) facilitating a core process of our democracy. ... Energetic, organised, and compassionate volunteers who are willing to be non-partisan for a day are necessary to help ensure elections continue to run smoothly.”

There’s another strong incentive involved in becoming a poll worker: In many cases, you’ll get paid for your work! The amount varies by location, but can be as much as $200 — or even double that — for a day. Some jurisdictions also offer additional payment for training and/or early voting. Who wouldn’t want to make some extra cash while also supporting democracy?

Serving as a poll worker is a great way for younger folks to get involved too: Most states allow 16 and 17-year-olds to serve as poll workers, and election administrators specifically need poll workers with basic tech fluency, like comfort using computers and iPads, to help polling places run smoothly. At Power the Polls, we also see a particular need for bilingual poll workers nationwide, so voters who speak languages other than English can participate fully and confidently in our democracy.

Counter to what you might expect from media narratives, we’ve seen time and again that poll workers overwhelmingly have positive and fulfilling experiences, and the vast majority want to serve again. In our survey of poll workers after the 2022 midterm elections, 95 per cent said they had a positive experience, and 88 per cent expressed interest in working in a future election.

As one poll worker reflected, “Each time I have come away with a deep appreciation of the process, of the city clerks and poll workers, and the citizens who come out to make their voices heard.” The general election is just six months away, and election administrators across the country are hard at work ensuring that Americans can vote this fall — and Power the Polls is already monitoring poll worker needs in triple the jurisdictions we tracked in 2022.

We need to recruit hundreds of thousands of potential poll workers now who will complete an application with their local elections office, be selected and trained, and commit to showing up at their local rec centre, school, or sports arena polling place to help their neighbours vote in November.


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