Voting in the 2020 general election is going to look a little bit different, to say the least. More people than ever are expected to vote by mail. But if you’re planning to vote in person, social distancing guidelines will mean that lines at the polls will be long. And the only way to have effective in-person voting is with an adequate number of poll workers.
“We are going to have a shortage of poll workers this year, we already do,” says Rachael Cobb, PhD, chair and associate professor of government at Suffolk University. “Anybody who’s interested in getting involved, serving as a poll worker is one of the best things you can do this year to serve your country.”
The average poll worker belongs to the community most vulnerable to COVID-19: the elderly. The Pew Research Center found that, in the 2018 midterm election, 58 percent of U.S. poll workers were age 61 or older, and roughly a quarter were over 70. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop serious illness from COVID-19, explains the CDC.
Poll workers are essential for ensuring the vote runs smoothly, something that’s extremely important for upholding our democracy.
“The theory of democracy is that it is a government for and by the people and the vote is the basic building block that gives people the power to control their government and to shape what policies they want and the future direction of their town, state, and country,” says Dr. Cobb. “[Voting is] theoretically, the great equalizer. Each of us has that one vote and theoretically at least, it gives us equal political power and political footing because none of us have more than just that vote.”
Your vote can empower the people making decisions that directly impact your health, like access to reproductive care and prescription drug costs. And in some cases, you can directly vote on certain initiatives. For example—voters in Missouri just approved creating a state constitutional amendment that will open Medicaid eligibility to include healthy adults starting on July 1, 2021, reports NPR.
However, not everyone in our society has the right to vote. This makes exercising your right to vote, if you have it, extremely precious and important. To help the vote go smoothly, consider signing up to be a poll worker. In some states, it’s a volunteer position, while in other states you can get paid. Poll workers are needed to work when the polls are open—on the dates of primary and general elections and any days where in-person early voting is available. You’ll perform tasks like opening and closing the polling locations, process and, if necessary, assist voters, and report results.
If you’re young and healthy, you may want to consider signing up to become a poll worker this year. Below, you’ll find information on how to apply to be a poll worker in different states.
How to become a poll worker
Note: If your state is not listed below, please contact your county supervisor.
Delaware registered voters can fill out an application and send it to the election office in the county where you live. For high schoolers, college students under 18, and college students attending school in a county other than where they are registered, click here for application information. Click here for more information directly from your state.
To become an election worker, review the Election Worker Flyer and complete the Elections Worker Application. Return the completed application to email@example.com, send to your parish Clerk of Court’s Office, or to the address below. Click here for more information directly from your state.
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