NEW YORK — They’re the unsung heroes of Election Day: poll workers who are on the ground, helping us cast our ballot and keeping our elections running.
With 62 days to go until the general election, a national poll worker shortage is causing concerns that could translate into chaos.
Officials are now turning to young people.
During the 2018 midterm elections, a majority of poll workers were 61 year old or older.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, recruitment in that traditional age group has been challenging, as they’re most vulnerable to developing serious medical complications from the virus.
The high demand for volunteers, paired with concerns over mail-in ballots, is why Zach Mazerov, a digital marketing manager from Brooklyn, has signed up to be a poll worker.
“I don’t want them to feel like they have to put themselves in danger for us,” he said of traditional poll workers. “It’s on us, the younger people, to jump in and say we’re going to help.”
That push to tap into the younger crowd is also happening on the corporate level, with companies like Old Navy and Barclays Center — which is being used as a polling site — offering to pay their employees who sign up to be poll workers.
Online initiatives are also taking flight.
Power the Polls is a first-of-its-kind initiative to recruit poll workers, which just this week marked a milestone of signing up more than 250,000 volunteers to work on Election Day.
“Not enough poll workers equals not enough polling locations, equals longer lines which means people who cannot afford to wait are disenfranchised,” Erika Soto Lamb, a founder of Power the Polls and VP of social impact strategy at Comedy Central and MTV, explained.
Poll workers are paid for their time. In some states, you could be as young as 16. In New York, that age is 17.
Safety guidelines, including providing PPE to workers, will be enforced at sites nationwide.
For Mazerov, the trade off in order to protect democracy is well worth it.
“This is the only way we are going to come out the other side of this…if we have a successful election,” he said.
To learn more on how to volunteer to become a poll worker, visit the Power The Polls website here.
Election Day is Nov. 3.