Poll Workers Are Essential Workers

Statement by Aquene Freechild, Co-Director, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Note: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has designated Sept. 1 as National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, in response to a particularly acute shortage of poll workers expected this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Power the Polls, which is seeking to recruit younger, more diverse populations that have not historically participated in poll work in large numbers, has estimated that 250,000 new workers would be needed nationwide. More information on National Poll Worker Recruitment Day is available at HelpAmericaVote.gov and PowerThePolls.org. Public Citizen is a Power the Polls partner.

Poll workers are essential workers. But currently there aren’t enough to staff polling locations in November due to the coronavirus pandemic. Senior citizens, who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, have traditionally comprised most of the poll worker workforce, but it’s critical that young, healthy people step up. This year, we welcome a new crop of essential workers to fuel our democracy.

Congress must also step up and fund our elections and our postal service to make sure people can vote safely – whether they choose to vote in-person or by mail – and to ensure that poll workers are protected. So far, the U.S. Senate has refused to provide the necessary funding to support safe and accessible voting at the polls or to provide funding for the U.S. Postal Service in an election when timely vote-by-mail will be critical to avoiding overcrowded polling places.

Poll workers need personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and other safety measures that require resources, just like any essential workers during the pandemic. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation providing $3.6 billion to fund our elections and $25 billion to fund the Postal Service. With just two months left before Nov. 3, the Senate must do the same to protect our access to the polls and our poll workers.