Young people should volunteer to work the polls this November, and APSU students are just the people to do it.
58% of poll workers in the 2018 general election were over 60, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an age that is linked to a higher risk for complications with COVID-19. Working the polls this November is incredibly risky for that population, creating a huge deficit in volunteers to fill.
We have already seen a shortage of election workers in some of the early primary states. In Wisconsin, a shortage of thousands of poll workers led to incredibly long lines and even the closing of many voting locations. The city of Milwaukee for example had just five polling places open. They usually have 180.
A lack of poll workers would have huge implications on election day and election experts fear a massive shortage.
To combat this shortage, APSU students should volunteer to work the polls.
While the science is still unclear about differences in coronavirus susceptibility based on age, Covid-19 infections have proven less deadly to young people, according to the CDC.
Of course, not all APSU students are capable of doing that. Election day is on a Tuesday which means students may run into issues with school or work. Additionally, APSU is home to a sizeable percentage of non-traditional students who may be older than the traditional college student or may have additional responsibilities to consider. COVID-19 has also worsened challenges students already face, such as financial insecurity, physical and mental health and family responsibilities.
However, for those who are in a position to volunteer, the process is relatively simple with few requirements. For Montgomery County, the requirements include things like being a registered voter of Montgomery County, attending a training class and having energy or stamina, according to the Montgomery County Election Commission website.
The process to apply in Montgomery County is very simple. A prospective poll worker will fill out the application on the Montgomery County Election Commission website and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it physically to the Montgomery County Election Commission, P.O. Box 422, Clarksville, TN 37041.
As a poll worker, students would get to participate in something bigger than themselves and help guarantee the safety of our democracy by ensuring the right of people to vote in a timely, effective and accurate manner.
Additionally, almost all poll workers are compensated for their work, although the amount varies based on state and jurisdiction.
Students should step up and volunteer to be a poll worker, because, in addition to it being a rewarding experience, it is also our civic duty.
The right to vote is a critical component of a healthy democracy. Your vote is your voice. The only thing worse than having it stolen is throwing it away. Students can help ensure this community’s voices are heard by helping keep polling sites open through volunteering.
The number of polling locations across the country was already falling, even before the coronavirus, and many fear that the closures have disproportionately harmed impoverished areas and communities of color.
After the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, which diluted the Voting Rights Act, at least 1688 polling locations were shut down in areas where closures would have previously required approval under the Voting Rights Act, according to the Leadership Conference Education Fund. While not all closures prove discrimination, they are worth scrutinizing given this country’s history of excluding voters of color from the political process.
Bolstering the number of poll workers won’t solve the larger issues of voter suppression and availability of polling sites entirely, but it is a step in the right direction. It is far easier to secure new polling sites when it is proven that you have enough poll workers to manage them in the first place.
Volunteering to be a poll worker is enriching in itself, but it could also give students the opportunity to give back to their community and to protect marginalized groups within it.
Participating in this civic process is our duty, and what’s more, it is non-partisan. Everybody from both sides of the aisle has the right to vote, and students can be a part of protecting that right. Students may even find it beneficial to step outside of the whirlwind of politics and step into civics, the rights and duties of citizenship.
College is the time when young adults first form their sense of civic duty. This is when so many vote for the first time, follow a race, volunteer for a campaign, start to consider the ways democracy shapes life as we know it.
To guarantee that our democracy is healthy and that our democratic rights are well in hand, we have to exercise them regularly: vote in that election, make a call to your senator, volunteer at the polls.
Every year APSU asks its freshmen class to participate in a volunteer event during APEX weekend, because part of being a Gov is giving back. What better way to give back to this community then to volunteer at the polls and help defend that which is most precious among our rights of citizenship: the right to vote.