For those seeking to be politically engaged, the coronavirus pandemic poses significant issues. Across the country, local and state governments have created restrictions which bar large gatherings and discourage social interactions. With college campuses at their mercy, many universities have shut down for the fall semester. For those fortunate enough to remain on campus, engagement, especially that of a political nature, has been stifled. However, college students aren’t the only ones who face this issue. These troubles reach far past universities themselves, and deep into the communities in which these campuses reside.
Older populations are notorious for their political involvement. According to a 2019 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 64% of eligible Baby Boomers voted in the 2018 midterms, while only 42% of eligible millennials and 30% of eligible Generation Z voters. This November, as many older voters stay home to remain safe, this will not only lower the number of voters at the polls, but the number of poll workers as well.
In another study conducted in 2020 by PRC, it was found that during the 2018 midterm, around six in ten poll workers were over the age of 61, and approximately 27% were over the age of 70. With citizens in this demographic being more likely to contract the novel coronavirus, poll worker shortages will be inevitable in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.
History has shown that poll worker shortages are a direct cause of voter disenfranchisement, with effects ranging from long lines to complete poll closures. With many touting the 2020 election as one of the most important in recent history, and the growing doubt surrounding the use of mail-in voting, ensuring polling locations are adequately staffed is imperative.
Campaigns such as Power The Polls, the Campus Compact Safe Elections Project, and the Campus Vote Project seek to make sure that voting as a form of civic engagement remains accessible to all. As students still on campus strategize ways which to both respect social distancing policies while also furthering their respective political causes, becoming a poll worker appears to be a strong option. In most places, poll workers are paid, which, along with protecting democracy, is a lucrative incentive for college students, who are usually low on money. Additionally, with many universities discussing the possibility of cancelling class on Election Day, being a poll worker is more accessible to students than ever.
For those seeking more information on how to become involved in their respective areas, visit Power The Polls for more information.