Over the past 20 years, counties across the country, including in Georgia, have faced persistent and growing poll worker shortages. As voters, we see these issues manifest through excessively long lines to cast our ballots, lack of polling sites in underserved communities, and voters being unjustly turned away from the voting booth. Covid-19 served to severely exacerbate the shortage, bringing it to the forefront of American consciousness. Prior to 2020, the majority of poll workers were senior citizens or retirees, the demographic who faced the greatest health threat from Covid-19. In an effort to mitigate that enormous personal risk, many of these public servants opted out of working the polls, ultimately leading to the largest poll worker shortage our democracy has seen.
This unprecedented shortage made national news and mobilized organizations nationwide to recruit and train lower risk individuals, including young people and students, to serve as poll workers. To ensure that democratic participation is never again so acutely threatened, we must continue to apply the lessons we learned during the 2020 election cycle and strengthen our election system year after year by recruiting and training new poll workers.
It has never been more urgent that we create entry points for all eligible individuals, especially young people, to serve as poll workers in every election, from local to federal. Young poll workers not only have the power to make polling locations more representative and equitable for other young voters, but also to advance new polling technology. I started the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project as a student at Georgia State University and an Andrew Goodman Ambassador.
The Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project recruits college students to become poll workers and signed up and trained 1,000 youth poll workers in Metro Atlanta for the 2020 election. The movement organizes colleges and universities, youth groups, and local governments and leverages social media and local and national partnerships to recruit young poll workers. To start your own project, check out my guide, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Building a Youth Poll Worker Project.
- Follow the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project on Instagram!
- Share The Hitchhiker’s Guide on your social media!
- Contact your local election office and become a poll worker today!