How Gen Z Can Save the 2020 Election.
Why We Need the Next Generation of Poll Workers.
What is Needed.
As levels of polarization reach a boiling point in America, the ability to produce a trusted and fair election result is essential to allowing the country to pull together and continue the fight against COVID. Given that President Trump has already been showing signs that he may not concede the election in a close loss, it is even more important that the American public feels confident that the electoral system will work properly, even in these unprecedented times. While voting by mail will be important, poll workers and polling stations will remain essential to the success of the 2020 election. With poll working jobs available to young people, even high school students too young to vote, it may be up to Gen Z to save this election.
Vote by mail?
While absentee ballots or “vote by mail” is a straightforward, and popular solution in use since the Civil War we can not depend on it to save this election.
Vote by mail may not happen in time, will not cover all voters, and is being sabotaged by the white house.
Many states are rapidly making the move to mail in voting. However, history shows that there will be pitfalls along the way. Even before the issues with postal service, the rapid expansion of absentee ballots in NY resulted in 1 in 5 citizens having their votes tossed. Not exactly a great vote of confidence.
Additionally, as of August 16th 2020 states such as Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Indiana and New York, do not allow the pandemic to serve as an excuse for requesting an absentee ballot. While some of these states may change this before election day, some may not. Even if all of these states do change their legislation, voters may not be informed and only 10 states are currently planning to mail ballots to all voters.
While studies have shown that mail-in ballots do not favor republican or democratic candidates, the current administration has taken a firm stance against mail-in ballots, falsely claiming that they are a source of election fraud. While this may be a piece of propaganda it means that voters may not take election results seriously if there is not in-person polling data that matches the mail in ballots, particularly in key swing states. The list of people concerned about a contested election is long, and scary.
Remember, we do not only need a fair election, we need a trusted one.
Trump is “laying the groundwork to say: ‘The election was stolen, there was fraud, we’re going to go to court, we’re going to call out people on the streets,’” said Mark Brewer, an elections lawyer who is helping train Democratic legal volunteers in Michigan.
Even if the states move to allow everyone to vote by mail, they still rely on the federal postal system to deliver the ballots. As Trump has been obstructing the US Postal Service, it is possible that people may not receive their ballots by election day, even if they do everything right. In this case, it is essential that polling places be open for those who are able to take the personal risk to vote — and that those polling places be as safe as possible during a pandemic.
The lesson from Wisconsin: We need poll workers.
7,000 poll workers in Wisconsin stepped down before the April democratic primary, causing a reduction in polling sites that lead to long lines and a dangerously overcrowded voting process. This is a perfectly rational decision. Over 58% of US poll workers are over 60 and are therefore at a higher risk of serious complications from COVID. Additionally, while a voter will only encounter only a few other people while casting their vote, a poll worker will encounter hundreds. While the state had enacted no-excuse absentee voting and had more than 7 times the number of mail-in ballots as 2016, there were still an estimated 9,000 ballots requested that were never sent.
“Luckily, this is a problem with a relatively simple solution: Young people should step up and be poll workers. It’s what I did for the Texas primary in March. It was relatively easy, I was paid for my work, and it was wildly rewarding to help hundreds of people vote, many of them college students voting for the first time.” -Maya Patel, LA Times
That’s right, this solution is so straightforward I’m not anywhere near the first to suggest it: we need young healthy poll workers.
Young healthy poll workers can help not only our democracy but also our COVID fight. By having more healthy poll workers states will be able to better take advantage of early voting and open more polling stations staggering voters by location and time. In-person voting will always be risky while COVID is present, but an increase in space and time can lower the number of interactions each voter is forced into. This follows CDC guidelines around creating a safer voting system. While young poll workers may be more likely to contract the virus, their work will protect both elderly poll workers and in-person voters including the elderly and immunocompromised.
Patel’s article focuses on the importance of a fair election. She makes important note of the fact that communities of color are more likely to see their polling stations closed. However, the importance of poll workers to in-person voting is in assisting not just a fair election, but a trusted one. The more ballots counted immediately on November 3rd, the better chance of a clear result. Fighting disinformation is important. Fighting for the USPS is important. But at the end of the day our final line of defense, the final guardians of our democracy are the poll workers.
Our poll workers matter. They are integral to our democracy and it is time for my generation to take a stand to protect this vital role. If you are in high-school or older, learn what it takes to become a poll worker in your state by going to https://www.workelections.com/.
“Countless numbers of Americans have fought and sacrificed to protect our right to vote. Especially during these challenging times, we need you to do your part to make our democracy work.
If you’re at lower risk with regards to coronavirus, we encourage you to volunteer. Sign up today!”