According to the Pew Research Center, a majority (67%) of U.S. citizens predict that the COVID-19 pandemic will disrupt their ability to vote in the presidential election this November. This impending crisis in voter participation will only be heightened by another challenge to our democracy: the anticipated shortage in sufficient availability of poll workers and election judges available to administer our elections.
Older citizens (ages 61 and older) are more vulnerable to the serious consequences of the virus—and have historically made up the majority of election workers. In the 2018 general election, they comprised 58% of all poll workers. We younger generations must fill their shoes to ensure all Americans have access to vote this November. Without a new generation of poll workers, voting precincts will be forced to close polling locations, diminishing people’s access to the ballot.
We have already seen the impact the lack of poll workers has had on voting rights during the 2020 primary elections. Milwaukee had only 5 polling locations open on primary election day. Louisville had just 1. More and more election officials have expressed a growing concern for the safety and accessibility of their elections come November without an immediate increase in the number of eligible poll workers. Voters deserve to have their ballots cast and counted. That depends on poll workers being able to keep the polls open this November. Our republic depends on a new generation of poll workers ready to meet the challenges facing our electoral process this year and beyond.
The challenges don’t stop with Election Day. We traditionally rely on the older generation to undertake post-election work such as counting absentee ballots, not to mention possible recounts. Given the likelihood of a significantly higher volume of absentee voting and the possibility of contests and recounts following the election, mobilizing students to fill these roles is vital.