CONCORD, N.H. – The clock is ticking for election officials to fill a massive need for people to work the polls on Election Day.
Many senior citizens who typically work the polls are staying home this year due to the risks of the pandemic, researchers from MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab and the voting rights group Democracy Works said. They estimate the country needs at least 467,000 new poll workers to meet the demand.
Connor Spern, 24, was scrolling on her social media late one night when she saw a plea for help – from her city.
“Seeing that was a real eye-opener,” Spern said. “I hadn’t considered the fact that most of those poll workers are seniors, and they are the ones that are truly affected by COVID.”
She said she signed up right away and spread the word to Concord’s Young Professionals Network and enlisted the help of several friends. Election officials in cities across the country are increasingly turning to millennials and other young people to step in and fill the roles, the Concord Monitor reports.
“I emailed the city clerk and she connected me with our ward moderator and he called me two days later,” said Erin Schaick, 30, one of Spern’s recruits.
More than 70 companies have told low-risk workers they can take paid time off to lend a hand, part of an initiative called ‘Power The Polls.’
“If we have less poll workers, as you saw in the primary, it often leads to shutting down a number of polling sites or long lines or both,” said Fair Elections Center President Robert Brandon, who helped launch the initiative. “It’s to recruit a new generation of poll workers, people that might be younger, less vulnerable to the virus.”
So far, the organization said it has helped recruit more than 350,000 poll workers across the country, Brandon said.
Spern said she worked New Hampshire’s state primary earlier this month – and now she’s gearing up for the big day in a few short weeks.
“It just seems like an easy way for me to step up both to support my ward and my city, but also the seniors in the area who really need to step back at this time,” Spern said.
Brandon said people can log onto workelections.com for information on how to get involved at their local polling location.