This year is more important than ever for younger people to get out and work the polls. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer people are committing to working polling places come election time. Statistically, most poll workers are over the age of 60, which is why the organization Power the Polls has committed to recruiting younger people to get more involved this time around.
Volunteering to work the polls will not only help you have an impact on an important election, but it will also help alleviate some of the older and more at-risk people who typically work on election day. Working the polls is pretty easy to do — all you have to do is check out your state’s requirements, sign up to work, attend training, and show up at the polling place. We know there are some questions about what goes into working the polls and why it’s so important, so we spoke with Erika Soto Lamb, a founder of Power the Polls and the VP of Social Impact Strategy at Comedy Central and MTV, to learn more about the process and why people should get out and volunteer.
Will I Get Paid For Working the Election?
In many states, yes! Check your state’s guidelines to see if you’ll be paid for working the polls.
What Are the Requirements For Working the Election?
Like all election-related things, this will vary by state, but in some areas, you only have to be 16 years old to work the polls. That means you don’t even have to be registered to vote to pitch in. Working the polls is a great way to get involved before you’re old enough to vote and feel like you’re making an impact on Election Day, because you are!
Do I Have to Work the Whole Day on Election Day?
The answer to this one is still up in the air, because everything is in flux until election day. “In some states, you’re signing up for the whole day, and I think that part of the reason why is because there’s a shortage,” Soto Lamb told POPSUGAR. She added that when polling places have enough people working, they’re more able to let people work in shifts, but for the most part, you’re probably signing up for the whole day, which can be long. However, most places will pay you, so keep that in mind!
“Of course [a full day] would be a lot of harder to do, even if your heart is in the right place. It’s harder to commit that much time when you have other things to do: school, work, life. We’re having conversations about how we can get less time commitment, but it’s dependent on us recruiting more people,” Soto Lamb said. Assume going into this commitment that you’ll have to work the whole day on election day and potentially during early voting. Try to plan ahead with school or work to ensure you can get the time off.
What If I Live in a Different State Than Where I’m Registered to Vote?
We know, especially for young people, that it’s common to be registered to vote in a different state than you live in, especially if you go to college out of state. Soto Lamb said this shouldn’t be a problem because you don’t necessarily have to work a poll in the place you’re registered to vote, but you have to check your state’s requirements. She told POPSUGAR that the first step toward working the polls is to find out the specific requirements of the state you’ll be in on election day. So if you are registered to vote in Ohio but go to school in New York, check New York’s requirements first and go from there.
How Do I Sign Up to Work the Election?
Sign up with Power the Polls to learn more about working the election and also see how you can help recruit more people to do the same. You can also learn more about working the election here. If you live in Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta, or Minneapolis, your help is especially needed this election season, as those areas have an extreme shortage of poll workers.
Is It Safe to Work the Polls Amid COVID-19?
COVID-19 is largely why it’s important for younger, less-at-risk people to work the polls in place of those who are more vulnerable. The more people who are working the polls, the faster people can move through voting on election day, which means smaller crowds. As always, it will be important to properly wear a mask while working the polls (and while voting) and maintain a safe distance from those around you. You should also follow the CDC’s best practices the best you can and remember to wash your hands frequently during the day.