By Kaitlin Dunn
Elm Staff Writer
As the 2020 presidential election draws near, candidates and nonpartisan organizations have emphasized the importance of voter participation.
However, voting is not the only way one can get involved with the election and democracy.
Volunteer jobs, such as poll working and election protectors, allow people to give their time to assist in the democratic process as a nonpartisan aide.
“Our democracy depends on ordinary people who make sure elections run smoothly and everyone’s vote is counted. You can make sure we have a safe, fair, efficient election for all,” Power the Polls, a nonpartisan group that helps people begin the process of becoming poll workers, said.
“One of the important roles in the election process is that of the poll worker — people within local communities who commit to the election process and helping Election Day run smoothly and fairly,” they said.
“If you’ve ever voted in-person, you’ve been helped by a poll worker: they’ve checked you in and pointed you in the right direction to cast your ballot,” National Public Radio’s Clare Lombardo said.
However, with the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise within the United States, people who traditionally fill these roles are having to forgo being a poll worker.
According to the Election Assistance Commission, during the 2018 general election, over 25% of poll workers were aged 71 or older, while 58% were 61 or older.
With this decrease in older age groups’ participation, this shortage of volunteers at polling locations has resulted in the potential of precincts being consolidated or combined. This includes inaccessibility to people within these communities, such as those who walk to their local precinct and cannot otherwise get a ride to the polls.
“Milwaukee, for example, typically has 180 polling places. At the primary in April, just five sites were operating,” CNBC News reporter Alicia Adamczyk said in September. “Earlier this month, election board officials in states across the country said they were still thousands of volunteers short.”
As a result, there has been a push to get young people to volunteer as aids for the upcoming election.
Nonpartisan groups like Power the Polls offer resources and information for those interested in becoming a poll worker, such as requirements and the training materials.
While you are volunteering your time, it is also a paid position. The Fair Elections Center offers information regarding how much you can get paid based on where you are located, with rates varying by state and district.
“Poll workers are indeed paid by election officials — from stipends of less than $100 to hundreds of dollars,” NBC reporters Jane C. Timm and Shamar Walters said. Poll workers, they typically work the entire day, from when the polls open to when they close.
“On Election Day — don’t forget to bring snacks and wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You’ll also want to bring a charger or battery backup for your phone,” Sylvia Albert, director of the watchdog group voting and elections at Common Cause said.
For those interested in becoming a poll worker but are still wary about the pandemic, personal protective equipment and other materials are provided to volunteers upon arrival at their assigned polling locations.
Another way to get involved is to be an election protector, whose tasks include stopping voter suppression and misinformation. Election protectors complete tasks such as poll watching, making voters aware of disinformation on social media, informing voters of their rights regarding their ballots, or connecting voters with legal help regarding the voting process.
For those interested in this position, nonpartisan groups such as Election Protection have information regarding volunteering. Those interested in working directly with a political party serve as poll greeters. These are typically sponsored by local political organizations prior to November.
Unlike other positions, poll greeters can speak about their candidates and try to sway you towards their political party before casting your vote on Election Day. They do things such as hand out literature regarding the party’s candidates and sample ballots that align with the party.
For anyone looking to get involved, there are several opportunities available. However, deadlines to sign up are approaching, so if you are interested, it is recommended that you sign up soon.
While this election may look different this year due to COVID-19, there are still ways citizens can be active participants in our democracy.
Featured Photo caption: If you’re considering going to the polls to aid others cast a vote, here are some ways you can help. Photo by Mark Cooley.