Poll workers are the backbone of election day, which is why Veterans for American Ideals has partnered with Power the Polls to mobilize committed veterans and military families to volunteer to serve as poll workers for the 2020 General Election. The protection and preservation of our nation for future generations begins with our elections, which cannot function without poll workers. Right now, the United States is a nation reeling from a deadly global pandemic. Most poll workers are over 60 years old and at greater risk from COVID-19.
Veterans know how to answer the call to serve – especially in times of crisis. By volunteering to serve this November, veterans can protect the very democracy we’ve sworn to defend. As John Lewis boldly stated, “in a democracy the right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have,” so let’s step up, provide reinforcements, and serve in unity so that all Americans can exercise their constitutional right and civic duty on election day.
Poll workers are needed everywhere, but especially in Wisconsin, Georgia, Iowa, and Michigan.
Servicemen and women were called to serve their communities throughout Wisconsin’s primary election seasons in April and August. For the April presidential preference primary and the May special congressional election, the Wisconsin Election Commission Administrator received a survey that indicated there was a need for over 7,000 poll workers. The average wait time in Milwaukee during the April Primary was between 90 minutes and two hours, and in Green Bay there were only two in-person polling sites and some voters waited for four hours to cast their vote. Approximately 2,500 service members were activated to fill as many local requests as they could. The Wisconsin Election Commissioner stated, “I still to this day, think that the National Guard was responsible for us being able to pull off opening polling places in all 1,850 municipalities.” For the August Primary Election, Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order authorizing the National Guard to provide support – nearly 700 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen completed their mission in service to their community in 40 counties. The ease that poll workers create for voters throughout the voting process is unparalleled.
It is expected that over 5 million Georgians will vote at approximately 2,600 polling places in the November General Election. Since poll workers play a critical role in protecting every American’s right to vote along with securing the safety of the workers, it is imperative to engage Georgians to volunteer to protect our democracy. During the June Primary, in Cobb County, Georgia’s third most populous county, over 25% of poll workers, many of them seniors, opted not to work. Alternate versions of voting, such as absentee and mail-in, should be an option for all Americans during a global pandemic; however, these options cannot wholly replace in-person voting in Georgia. A week before the June Primary, tens of thousands of Georgia voters were reporting that they had not received their absentee ballots, and 3,300 voters statewide were never sent absentee ballots because officials entered information into their system incorrectly.
Iowa, one of the most rural states in the country, has an active voting base. However, 24 rural counties had only one single polling site during the June 2nd Primary. Some rural communities committed to get creative by voting in drive-throughs and fire department equipment bays; however, others did not have the capacity due to COVID-19 precautions. It is up to all of us to get creative on how we can still exercise our right to our democratic values. Iowa had to close about half of its polling places for the June Primary in part to poll worker shortages. Finding poll workers to volunteer to take the place of those falling into age groups most susceptible to the coronavirus has been the biggest barrier to Iowa running its elections at its traditional capacity.
In Michigan, state officials have said that they will need double the numbers of poll workers for the general election that served in the primaries. Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, said “We should be prepared for this to be closer to an election week as opposed to an election day.”