by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The good news is that leading experts believe it will be safe for nearly all Americans to vote in person at the polls this November. Dr. Anthony Fauci told National Geographic that those who are medically compromised can vote by mail but that otherwise “there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to vote in person or otherwise.”
The bad news is that states are facing a shortage of thousands of poll workers as older volunteers at higher risk for coronavirus cancel plans to show up on Election Day.
America already faced a vanishing corps of volunteers before the virus, as existing ones retired or died. It’s become more and more difficult to convince younger generations to take on a job that involves twelve-hour days or longer and pays between $75 and $160 for the whole day.
According to the Election Assistance Commission, more than two-thirds of election boards reported that in 2018 it was either “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult” to obtain a sufficient amount of poll workers.
The nation’s 900,000 poll workers are responsible for everything from making sure voters get the right ballots to helping people with issues as they vote. Shortages of people could add confusion, long lines, and delays to an Election Day process that has already been taxed by coronavirus.
The Pew Research Center reports that 58 percent of poll workers in 2018 were 61 or older. That’s the age demographic that is particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The complexity of election laws has made the job increasingly stressful; plus, poll workers may face verbal or other abuse from angry voters.
So it’s no surprise that many have opted not to show up this year. … Most worrying is that it’s older, more experienced judges who are dropping out — often after consulting with family and friends.