Groups launch effort to mobilize poll workers amid coronavirus pandemic

The nonprofit organizations and businesses behind the new effort, “Power the Polls,” are Civic Alliance, Comedy Central, Fair Elections Center, Levi Strauss & Co., Patagonia, Time To Vote, Pizza to the Polls, MTV, Uber and We Can Vote. The groups seek to get as many as 250,000 people to help keep in-person elections running as safely and efficiently as possible this fall.

“We’re calling upon people that care about democracy to recognize that an essential part of that is to make sure that our elections work and work well and that they’re efficient and safe and we don’t have long lines and problems at the polls due to a lack of human resources,” Bob Brandon, president of Fair Elections Center, told CNN.

The recruitment efforts will include the launching of a database that will provide information about becoming a poll worker, with up-to-date information for more than 4,000 jurisdictions, according to the groups. Brandon noted that the database would include information for most jurisdictions with populations of more than 7,500 people. The data is compiled by the Fair Elections Center, one of the partners in the project.

The effort aims to recruit people who work for members of the Civic Alliance, which launched earlier this year. Civic Alliance is a collaboration between Democracy Works and the CAA Foundation, and its member companies include Amazon, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, Lyft, Starbucks, Viacom CBS, Warby Parker, Target and Vice.

“We are going out to our members with an election day of service campaign, a service type opportunity, getting corporate members interested in getting employees to power the polls,” Mike Ward, vice president of voter engagement at Democracy Works, told CNN.

The effort comes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as states consider plans for in-person voting during the outbreak. Election officials across the country may be facing poll worker crunches. Earlier this year, officials in Wisconsin had difficulty recruiting poll workers as the pandemic swept across the US, and officials in Georgia and Kentucky reported poll worker shortages in their recent primaries.

Additionally, there is the age factor to consider: Poll workers tend to be older, and fall into an age bracket more vulnerable to serious illness from coronavirus. The Pew Research Center reports 58% of poll workers were ages 61 and older in the 2018 midterms, a number similar to the 56% during the 2016 elections.

Ward said tapping into companies’ networks of employees could provide polls with younger, tech-savvy poll workers.

“In polling locations, there is a real need for folks who are comfortable with technology. Younger generations are inherently more comfortable with technology. That youth factor helps ensure that every piece of tech in the polling site can be used to its potential,” he said.

Still, Brandon noted that the initiative is aimed at recruiting and educating poll workers of all ages.

“The initiative, while it’s focused in a lot of ways to reach young people, we want everybody to consider being a poll worker,” Brandon said.

“It’s very important that we create diversity and have the poll workers look like the voters they’re helping,” he said.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the number of jurisdictions that are included in a database maintained by the Fair Elections Center.

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