Updated: Jul 25
Threats, Covid-19, and misinformation make it hard to recruit election workers.
Patriotic Americans continue to step up for secure elections and democracy.
They wake up before sunrise to set up voting machines, work for more than 12 hours, and don’t go home until after dark.
They are the close to one million regular Americans who work elections across the country.
Working Elections Is a Demanding Job
Prospective election workers need to attend training, leaf through pages of complex instructions, and commit to spending a whole day at a polling place.
Most election workers get paid less than $300 to work from sunup to sundown. But a lot of people cannot take a day off of work, let alone clear their schedule of family responsibilities for an entire day.
It’s no wonder that in 2016 about 65% of voting jurisdictions reported it was very difficult or somewhat difficult to obtain election workers to run local voting booths. And that was before Covid-19.
Covid-19 Made It Harder to Find Election Workers
Many election workers are senior citizens, at greater risk of death if they caught Covid-19. It makes sense that some stopped working the polls to protect their own health.
But this required election officials to recruit, train, and retain new election workers. In 2020, around 700,000 Americans signed up to be election workers.
Absentee voting, long a help to voters out of town on election day, also eases the pressure on in-person polling places, requiring less staff.
Some states and jurisdictions are recruiting high school seniors and young adults to work on election day.
Threats and Harassment Don’t Help
Americans who step up to work elections don’t deserve death threats and harassment. But that’s exactly what some of them have received, largely due to misinformation about voter fraud.
The vitriol against election workers doesn’t make elections safer. If anything, it means fewer experienced election workers work the polls.
Why People Step Up to Work Elections
Some people serve as election workers to see firsthand how votes are counted.
For others, like Claude Fields who served in the Air National Guard in Michigan, it’s about a sense of duty.
“It’s something you do because you love your country and want to give back,” Fields said. “Like serving in the military. I took an oath then and took one as a poll worker.”