Tips to Find Poll Workers for Election Day During the COVID-19 Pandemic Outbreak

Precincts around the country are experiencing a shortage of poll workers for elections due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Typical poll workers are in their 60s and 70s. They are also more at risk of serious illness resulting from COVID-19 infection, and many do not feel comfortable working the primaries or general election this year.

"We know that traditionally, many of the folks who serve as election workers are older, and what we heard from clerks are some of those people were telling them they weren't going to be able to serve this year," Jake Rollow, spokesman for the Michigan Department of State. "We are looking for people willing to serve in their absence." (CBS News)

To ensure a large enough workforce for the general election in November, which is expected to bring a record turnout of voters, states and precincts need to start recruiting poll workers immediately. These ideas can help you target specific candidates, spread the word about the need and attract poll workers and precinct election officials.

Social Media

In Michigan, the Secretary of State’s office launched Democracy MVP to recruit poll workers. More than half of the 2,245 volunteers they recruited heard of the campaign through social media. In addition to reaching current followers, social media advertising is a relatively inexpensive way to reach very specific demographics of people. Potential targets include stay-at-home parents or parent groups, parents of school age children, freelancers/contractors or those employed in flexible jobs, part-time workers, or those that may show greater interest in the election process and politics, such as law students.

Connect with Media

Work with the local media to publicize your poll worker recruiting campaign. The media can help you educate the public on the need for poll workers, the duties of a poll worker, and the expectations and criteria for the job. This is a newsworthy story that affects all communities. Your local media should be willing to help. 

College Students in Specific Degree Programs

With a non-traditional schedule, college students in general could be a good fit as election workers. But, reaching out to specific degree program professors or schools may be a worthwhile means to attract workers directly. Political science, pre-law and law, criminal justice, public policy and public administration or similar degree programs would be most interested in the experience working an election day polling location would give their students. Colleges and universities in your state may be interested in a partnership to provide internship credits or other course credit for working at the polls. 

Associations & Community Groups

Associations that fit your poll worker target demographic may be a good resource. For example, the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) could help you reach more stay-at-home parents who have the flexibility to work on election day. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is working with lawyers in its network to encourage people to serve as poll workers. Seek out groups that are inclusive, non-partisan, and have a good standing in your state or local communities.

Local Businesses

If anything, businesses are learning to be more flexible during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing workers to work from home or on flexible schedules. Network with employers in your area who are willing to give employees the day off without any repercussion. It’s good PR for the businesses in the community to show they are dedicated to the democratic process and allowing their employees to take part.

However you encourage interest, educating citizens on the connection between a dedicated election day staff and a well-run election should be a key part of your message. Ask that younger, healthier people step up and take on election official roles at the polls and protect our older precinct workers. Inspire community members that their role in ensuring a smooth election process shows commitment to our democracy and our society as a whole.

ElectionSource can help you determine which election supplies and voting equipment you need for a successful election in your precinct, including supplies for voting safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact us at 888.742.8037 .

Source: CBS News, Shortages of poll workers and polling places put election officials on alert for November, accessed July 1, 2020