The Officials look to recruit the diverse Poll Workers Before the 2024 Elections.


The Election Officials Urge to Boost the Pay

Kaylie Martinez Ochoa arrived at an elementary school before 5 am on election day, barely awake from his dirty as a poll worker in Northern Virginia. This 22-year-old graduate spent a lot of time at the site this month to check on the hundreds of voters coming to vote for the President. Despite being an exhausting day, Ochoa also expects to do the same for the 2024 elections and expects more young workers to join the task of working at the sites.

Martinez Ochoa said to one of his peers that awareness is needed. But the people need to vote first and then get into the process. Desperately for more poll workers around the country like Martinez Ochoa, there has been a recruitment process for the officials going around the country for the elections.

Civic lessons are being taught at the schools, and credit and social media campaigns at the universities would encourage more young people to join the workforce where the average age is 60 and above. The election officials speak about the struggle to encourage young people to join the workforce after the global pandemic. Also, the recent threats for election workers have scared off many poll workers. 

But, the election officials also said that recruiting young officials for election work can save the country’s democracy. Issues like climate change, abortion, and student loans may raise more interest in students’ minds about working for their country.

Gregg Amore, the secretary of state for Rhode Island, said that the country could build a group of young people who will care for the poll worker population and look after the future leader population in the years to come. 

Election officials look toward high school workers for poll work.

Amore visits the high school classrooms in Rhode Island to provide 35-minute civics lessons to the students, including the voters’ suppression efforts and the history of voting rights. He addressed the students, saying that they have grown in a period of political turmoil. They have seen nothing good but a series of back-and-forth attacks.

He also said that some of the students have seen their families get segregated due to the wars and arguments related to politics. So Amore tried to teach voting rights to the students and will do it civilly and talk to them on how to engage civically and civilly on the day’s issues.

As a segment of a year-old initiative, the office has also created a Student Civic Liason program where the students selected can participate in programs like voter registration drives. This would target a lot of poll workers. Amore said we get the students back on civic duty by being connected to working on Election Day. 

The education and election officials are also working in Rhode Island to offer credit to college students. Around the United States, in California and San Mateo County, 125 out of 150 students have been encouraged to work across 45 voting centers. They constitute a significant part of the Student Democracy Program of the county election office. The group also won the best practice award from the Elections Assistance Commission last year.

For over 20 years, the program has worked with 20 different high schools and more than 5000 students called student democracy ambassadors. The students attend the training sessions, and on Election Day, they work as poll workers. The group’s Work is to educate young students who will become active and lifelong citizens, as stated by Mark Church.

He also said that for most students, it is their first instance of working as election workers. He also said this is an experience the students will carry on for a lifetime. Election officials at Wyandotte County also turned towards the young poll workers to help with the recent elections as a part of the local high school programs.

Students as young as 16 are also paid for their community service. Students hope to expand this program, which won an award last year. Marni Arezalo, a program coordinator for operation service, said getting the young students involved is fascinating. She said that if the students can be encouraged to work early, they will continue to be there.

Willing to get on to the Work

Learning about civic engagement is the first step for many young people. Egunjobi, a 17-year-old senior at the Classical High School, is in a program that aims to increase civic engagement among young people. Egunjobi said that you need to know the rights to make a change through the policy that you have to advocate.

She also plans to hold a civics conference at Brown University next spring. She is also considering to become a poll worker. She said it can help the younger people learn more about the election process. She said that they are the next and the present generation of leaders.

If the students are entering leadership positions with such knowledge, the country is already in a better place. Ochoa, the poll worker from Virginia, began at 17 years old as an election official handing out “I voted” stickers. She got an advanced credit for her high school Advanced Placement Government class. Later, in 2020, she signed up to become a poll worker.

Ochoa said that she was willing to answer the call. Edward Burroughs, a County Council of Prince George in Maryland member, said he visits the high schools to talk with the student government and the sports teams about civic engagement and the issues they would like to resolve. 

Burroughs said that if people can talk to the students wherever they are and talk on the issues they care about first and foremost, it can help them get civically engaged more quickly. But, there must be a connection on how their engagements will make a difference for themselves, their families, their schools, and their clubs.

Young People Stepped up During the Pandemic

According to the Election Assistance Commission, more than 1 million people are required nationally for the general elections in 2024. In 2022, only 14% of the workers were between 16 and 40. But, most were beyond the age of 60 years. Many young people served as workers during 2020 because older people were at risk during the pandemic. 

David Becker said the demand will likely increase in the following year with thousands of local elections coming. Elections experts said that it is essential for the pool of poll workers to be diverse. Traditionally, the poll workers have been old and white, not representing the community they serve, as Bob Brandon, Fair Elections of the Non-Partisans President, stated.

As Brandon said, the younger people tend to be driven towards tech and are likely bilingual based on their area. He also said that having someone from your community is comforting for the voters but also defines that the poll worker might go the extra mile to ensure they have done whatever they could.

Ochoa said that it matters as she can communicate with the Spanish-speaking voters. She also noted that many in her location of the polling site are not very fluent in English and are not very comfortable like their parents were when they immigrated from Central America a long time ago. She said she could help some people at the site where she has been every election.

Is being a poll worker a safe option?

Officials said efforts to become poll workers have been complex due to several threats and the pandemic. Zach Mohr, a professor at Kansas University, said that his research has shown that recent years have put a lot of strain on recruiting younger poll workers. 

Mohr said that it is a patriotic thing to do. But their families are challenged, asking whether it is safe to become a poll worker or not. He said it is a safe option, but there is a feeling of perception. Therefore, that perception makes it more challenging for people in some locations. 

Becker said that the job of a poll worker has always been safe, but the recent threats might turn some people away. The harassment of the election officials down to the poll worker levels might be a disincentive for the people to volunteer, he further added. But, Brandon said that some threats might have challenged the young people to become poll workers as they refused to be intimidated.

He further said there was a lot of interest in 2020 for stepping up and helping the people to vote, particularly given the immense craziness about the elections. 

The Election Officials Urge to Boost the Pay

As the officials said, one challenge of recruiting poll workers is to spend a long day at the polls—the High School Officials at the San Mateo County work between 6 am and 9 pm. Ochoa also said that long hours for low pay can turn down the interest of the young voters who make more doing some other work.

She said many people like her don’t want to work for so long with minimal pay. Many poll workers get a stipend for attending the polling sites’ workings and training. The students at Saint Mateo County get a stipend of 280 dollars. Governor Austin Davis said that election day is very long. 

There is too much responsibility; therefore, the officials must ensure that the workers get the proper pay and are eager to perform their civic activities. Ochoa said she is very excited to help people in the elections in 2024. 

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