The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Power the Polls are looking for a few good poll workers — no, make that a lot of good poll workers.
The November election, which is likely the most important of our lives, may be marked by a critical shortage of poll workers due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made heavily populated spaces more hazardous. Most poll workers are over 60, so therefore at high risk of severe complications from the virus (although no one is immune), so fewer are signing up for the job than in years past.
But the HRC Foundation (the activist group’s educational arm) and Power the Polls point out that poll workers play a crucial role in the system, and the duties can be made safer by following guidelines like social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. So today, for National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, they’re launching their partnership and hoping a new group of people will consider staffing polling places November 3 — and that these workers will reflect the population they’re serving.
“It is more important than ever that our polling stations are fully staffed and voters feel empowered and safe,” HRC Foundation President Alphonso David said in a press release. “The Human Rights Campaign is proud to work with Power the Polls this National Poll Worker Recruitment Day to recruit a new wave of poll workers. As we face a nationwide shortage of poll workers, we must ensure that our polling stations not only run smoothly in November, but also that they are representative of all. LGBTQ people should never face or fear harassment when trying to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”
Fear of discrimination has caused some LGBTQ people to avoid voting, according to HRC data. A 2019 survey by the HRC Foundation found that this fear has led 22 percent of LGBTQ adults, 35 percent of LGBTQ adults of color, 49 percent of transgender adults, and 55 percent of trans adults of color to avoid voting in at least one election in their lives.
Issues around meeting voter identification requirements have kept substantial percentages of LGBTQ people from voting, especially people of color and trans people. Forty-sex percent of trans people of color reported that they’ve missed one or more elections because their ID had the incorrect gender, name, or photo. And 18 percent of trans adults said they lack sufficient information about their voting rights — twice the percentage for gay and lesbian cisgender voters.
So if you’re healthy and want to help members of the community feel comfortable with voting, and make sure that voting is safe and fraud-free, you can sign up to be a poll worker here. Poll workers are usually paid — the compensation varies from place to place — and in the time of COVID, they will receive personal protective equipment and will have to follow safely protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The poll worker shortage is an urgent issue and we’re on the clock,” Scott Duncombe, co-director of Power the Polls, said in the release. “Our nation is in the middle of an unprecedented poll worker shortage which threatens our democracy, puts our older population at risk, and disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color. National Poll Worker Recruitment Day is a historic moment for people across the country to sign up to protect their communities, their democracy, and this election. We have to sign up enough poll workers and volunteers to keep polling sites open, staffed, efficient, and functioning. We must do everything we can to ensure this upcoming election is safe, fair, and accessible.”
Also, given that many Americans may opt for mail-in voting this year, the HRC Foundation has embarked on a campaign to dispel myths about voting by mail. See below.