The 2020 general election is likely going to be the most important in our lifetimes. Amidst a pandemic and a sudden national awareness of systemic racism, everyone is eager to cast a ballot in November. Many have considered the ways in which the USPS crisis will affect their voting process, deciding to send their ballots inordinately early or to just vote in-person with the proper PPE. However what people have not been considering enough is how our democracy will be threatened by the nationwide poll worker shortage.

A majority of those who traditionally work the polls are over 60 years old. Because these older volunteers are at high risk for COVID-19, they are being encouraged to stay home on election day for the sake of their own and public safety. Because of this, there is a severe shortage of poll workers. It is the job of young people and lower-risk individuals to take on this job for the general election.

Poll workers are essential to ensuring that elections run smoothly and efficiently. They are in charge of setting up polling places, making polling places accessible for people with disabilities, distributing ballots, processing ballots, and so much more. This fall, they will have even more responsibilities such as constantly sanitizing voting stations, offering curbside voting to citizens, and processing an abnormally large number of absentee ballots.

Besides the fact that young people can protect older folks in their community, there are many benefits to becoming a poll worker. First, it’s a PAID position. For the August primary election, the City of Madison paid poll workers over $21/hour. You get paid a great wage for something you might normally consider volunteering for. Next, working the polls is a really fun opportunity to see behind the scenes of an election; a lot of work goes into ensuring that results are accurate. Finally, if we do not have enough poll workers, polling places will close, which will ultimately lead to lower voter turnout. By signing up, you could possibly prevent a polling place closure and consequential voter suppression.

Becoming a poll worker is one of the best and most straightforward ways to stay civically engaged right now. If you are able to, stand up and sign up at PowerThePolls.org/Campus.

Olivia Panthofer

Town of Dunn