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We’re Facing a Historic Shortage of Poll Workers. Can Voters Count on You?

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With three months to go until Election Day, America is facing a critical shortage of poll workers, the linchpin of our voting process, all of whom need to be signed up and trained in time for November. We’re proud to announce a new partnership with Power the Polls, a multi-faceted, multi-organizational effort to encourage Americans to help fill the gap in time for November. The future of our democracy – and our communities – is at stake this November and you can be part of the solution.  

While many organizations, including the League of Women Voters, have been working around the clock to ensure voters are prepared and understand the many changes they may face in the voting process this year, concern is growing that our Election Day workforce – often understaffed and under-resourced even in a ‘normal’ year – will be in deep peril this November.  

Poll workers staff our voting sites, process ballots, answer voters’ questions, and ensure things run smoothly. They are on the front lines of our democracy and are the difference between a well-run polling place and a chaotic polling place. Sufficient, well-trained poll workers are especially important in black and brown communities where voters already tend to be at risk of voter suppression or intimidation. Poll workers also skew overwhelmingly older; in 2018, 58% of poll workers were over the age of 61 (Pew Research). With so many Americans remaining in high-risk health categories for COVID and with the virus continuing to spread at alarming rates, many experienced poll workers will have no choice but to sit out this year.  

While encouraging voters to vote early or by mail, as their state allows, is an important first step, we know that many voters will still vote in person on Election Day. Our polling places must be staffed, with poll workers trained and ready to help. 

Here are 5 things you can do right now:  

  1. Sign up as a poll worker. Pledge to be part of the solution on Election Day by serving in your community.  

  2. If you can’t work the polls due to health risks or other obligations, ask the people in your life if they can. Share information about how they can get involved, wherever they live.  

  3. Talk about the importance of poll workers. Take to your social media networks, professional listservs, and neighbor groups to talk about the expected poll worker shortage.  

  4. Use this opportunity to shine a light on the connection between our voting processes and social and racial equity in this country. Underrepresented communities are at the highest risk of missing out on the chance to vote. They’re disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. They’re most likely to vote, by choice and/or necessity, in-person – and thus most impacted if our voting sites are unprepared for a crush of voters. It’s on all of us to stand up and help ensure every single voter has the chance to participate this year.  

  5. If you’re a League volunteer or advocate working to support your local elections officials, share this great list of ideas and resources, “50 Ideas for Recruiting and Retaining Election Workers,” from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, and lend your expertise and problem-solving skills to help them get the job done!  

We can all be part of ensuring a safe, accessible election for voters this year – and we need to get started right now. Sign up to serve as a poll worker today!  

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