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Local officials sprint to recruit younger poll workers ahead of November's elections

Note: Colorado is a mail-in ballot state, but they also offer in-person polls.; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Local elections officials are sprinting to recruit younger poll workers ahead of November after elderly staff stayed home en masse to avoid coronavirus during primary elections.

Why it matters: A Pew Research analysis reports that 58% of U.S. poll workers in the 2018 midterms were 61 or older. Poll worker shortages can cause hours-long voting lines and shutter precincts.


  • Strenuous wait times often disenfranchise low-income workers and people of color — both groups that are more likely to work in shifts or have limited access to child care.

How it works: Poll workers generally receive training and compensation for their services. Common requirements for staff include...

  • Being registered to vote or high school student.
  • Being a resident of county you’re signing up in.
  • Not being a candidate or related to candidate.
  • Fluency in English, but other language skills are very high in demand.
  • Ability to work long hours with intermittent breaks.

The state of play: Officials in Milwaukee, which had just five polling places open for their April primaries due to labor shortages, are recruiting through high schools, colleges and youth organizations, per the Milwaukee Journal.

  • West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has issued a call-to-arms for young people to staff November’s polling facilities, per the Weirton Daily Times.
  • A new poll-worker recruiting group “Power the Polls” is planning to fill social media with content incentivizing young people to staff elections.
  • Some states are counting on rules allowing individuals under 18 to staff polling places as a means to an end.

Between the lines: Election Day is not a federal holiday and young people will not have the day off of school. They can also face tight work schedules or have limited transportation.

  • But many young people have been civically mobilized by recent events, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

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