Poll workers across the nation play a critical role in safeguarding our elections and ensuring the right to a secure, fair and accurate vote in communities. From explaining how voting equipment works to counting ballots, they smoothly guide voters through each step of the process to cast their ballot on Election Day.
This National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, we are highlighting the voices of two poll workers in the Conservation Voter Movement (CVM) who have joined the hundreds of thousands of people across the country that stepped up to take on one of the most critical parts of the electoral process. Amid the shortage of poll workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant disinformation, and relentless attacks on voting rights since the 2020 election, recruiting poll workers has become an even more important opportunity for community members to participate in the electoral process. In particular, it is critical that poll workers include people from communities that have been historically excluded from our democracy and are also on the front lines of the climate crisis, including communities of color and communities with low wealth.
See how to sign up to be a poll worker at Power the Polls. In some states, you can still sign up even if you’re not eligible to vote. Our democracy needs poll workers who support year-round election officials. And you’ll be paid for your time!
Brooke Harris, the voting rights manager at Michigan League of Conservation Voters, reflected that, “[Having] the ability to help people in my city vote, the enormity of that is not lost on me.” Harris served as a poll worker both last year and during the state’s primary election in early August.
In addition to her work helping voters at the polls, Harris works to protect election systems and the right to vote in Michigan through her work at Michigan League of Conservation Voters. This work helped secure same-day voter registration and mail-in voting, and this year she is working to further expand and institutionalize state provisions to expand voting access.
“Because of a lot of the attacks [are] on our election systems and on election administrators, this is crunch time for our democracy. We need poll workers, we need each other to step up to this. And folks who are able to make sure that all of our elections are run and they are run smoothly and fairly and accurately and securely – it’s us, just regular everyday folks that have a Tuesday free and are able to do that that make that happen,” said Harris.
Harris highlighted the connections to her community she built as a poll worker, both through meeting a diverse group of her neighbors and “being able to see firsthand the many different ways that Detroit in particular and then Michigan as a state really are making voting more accessible yet still secure for all of us to participate.”
Having a dynamic, engaged base of poll workers significantly helps improve the flow of Election Day. Across Lake Michigan in Madison, Wisconsin, Anjali Bhasin described a polling environment where lines were short and the voting process moved quickly. Bhasin is the civic engagement director at Wisconsin Conservation Voters (WCV) where she works to expand voter access throughout the state.
“We were able to help voters as they came in and to work to ensure that they had a good experience,” Bhasin said. She largely attributes this to the fact that her polling location in Madison has a high rate of civic engagement and a solid crew of poll workers who come back each year to staff the polls.
Bhasin similarly described a team environment working at the polls where she felt able to connect with other poll workers and “connect with [voters] and make sure they had what they needed.”
Yet, not every city has a base of poll workers as eager and engaged. Since American elections fall on Tuesdays, the pool of people who can take the day off to staff the polls is limited. Frequently, this work falls to poll workers who are older in age, but the spread of the pandemic has discouraged many of these workers who may be more vulnerable to the virus.
Polling locations across the country are especially in need of poll workers who are tech savvy and those who are multilingual to assist community members who may face barriers to engage in the voting process. Recruiting poll workers who have diverse language abilities helps expand voting access to those who usually are overlooked in voter registration and information efforts, but represent a key demographic.
“It’s important to our democracy, but it’s also really fulfilling,” says Harris.
Sign up to be a poll worker in your community at Power the Polls! You don’t always have to be eligible to vote to get involved in voter engagement in your communities, and nearly all poll workers are paid for their time. Check for your state’s requirements when you sign up!