MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - COVID-19 is creating more complications for election day.
Many poll workers, the majority of whom are retirees, say they don’t feel safe manning election sites in the middle of the pandemic.
“Sixty percent of them are 60 year over. And with the pandemic, there’s a lot of concern for older people about the potential of, you know, being catching some problem with the, with the virus. So we saw, you know, already during the primaries, a lot of traditional poll workers, not being willing to work the polls and, you know, appropriately so trying to stay safe,” said Bob Brandon, President of Fair Elections Center, an organization leading a movement to recruit younger poll workers.
So now there’s a move to recruit younger poll workers.
“We helped start an organization called Power the Polls, where people could sign up, and that information would go to election officials in general, Brandon explained. “If you’re a resident of the county, if you’re a registered voter, you can work the polls, you get paid. You get trained. And also if you’re younger, if you’re 16 and 17 year old, you can also work the polls as an unpaid intern. And those people can be very helpful. And they also learn a little bit about democracy in the process.”
And Brandon says time is critical, with less than three months until the general election.
“Election officials are under a lot of strain to try to get this done. And they have this added added issue of trying to make everything safe and have enough sanitary equipment in space and so on. So we need people to be able to work the polls and if you don’t don’t have enough people, you have to consolidate places. And that means longer distances for other folks to get to the polling place they normally can walk to or know it’s in the neighborhood and so on,” said Brandon. “The other issue is it creates long lines if you don’t have enough people and long lines often translate into people not be willing to stay. You know, in some cases, we saw our neighboring states, six, seven hours waiting in line in Georgia, for example, during the primary because they didn’t have enough workers.”
In Alabama, Secretary of State John Merrill is encouraging counties to recruit poll workers, including the student poll worker interns. Merrill’s office recent introduced a new poll worker tool online to help counties with recruitment.
So what can be done to solve the shortage?
“Well, I think being creative about asking, you know, neighborhood organizations, social service organizations, churches, to make a pitch for people to work the polls your election day,” Brandon said