Older Americans are at high risk for a severe to deadly case of coronavirus. Older Americans are also the primary age group that volunteers to serve as poll workers. Consequently, there has been a shortage of poll workers for elections since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In Georgia, elections chief Brad Raffensperger is hoping a new partnership will bring younger poll workers into the fray for the November Election.
Raffensperger is partnering with GeorgiaForward to recruit poll workers for elections in November and to educate voters about the how, when, and why of elections in Georgia. The secretary says he is spearheading this partnership with GeorgiaForward to ensure county elections officials have the staff they need on and in the weeks before election day.
“Partnering with GeorgiaForward will help us connect with civic-minded young professionals around the state to help staff the polls on election day,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “When COVID-19 swept through Georgia, Georgia’s vulnerable elderly poll workers stayed home to stay safe from the pandemic. Through these public-private partnerships, like the one with Georgia Forward, we will fill the gaps with younger poll workers and help provide a smooth and efficient experience for Georgia’s voters in November.”
“At GeorgiaForward we understand that statewide solutions to statewide problems are solved one community, one citizen, one act of civic engagement at a time. We’re excited to partner with the Secretary on this initiative not only for how it will help Georgia’s voters in November, but also how each poll worker will go back into his or her community that much more knowledgeable, engaged, and empowered,” said A.J. Robinson, Chairman of the GeorgiaForward Board.
Secretary Raffensperger is also partnering with GeorgiaForward and the Georgia Municipal Association for a deep dive discussion on voting in Georgia. The Secretary will present at “Let Your Voice Be Heard: How, When, and Why to Vote” on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at 6:00pm. He will be joined by Jason Carter of the Carter Center, Andra Gillespie of Emory University, and Janet Lee of the U.S. Census Bureau. Visit www.georgiaforward.org to register and learn more.
By working with a wide array of private and nonprofit organizations, Raffensperger says he is hoping to reach new areas of Georgia to pull people off of the sidelines.
Georgia poll workers were on average above 65 years old. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the United States, this particularly vulnerable population understandably opted to stay home and avoid the risk of exposure to the virus. As a result, polling locations across the state were short-staffed on election day and limited in their ability to train new poll workers due to the constraints of the pandemic.
To fill this gap, Secretary Raffensperger is partnering with numerous organizations in the state to help recruit younger, less-at-risk populations to staff the polls on election day.
On June 9, Georgia saw record turnout for a statewide general primary election. Notwithstanding a state record for absentee ballots cast by mail, Georgia saw over 800,000 people vote on election day itself. More than 300,000 voted early, in person, during Georgia’s three weeks of early voting.
In-person voting remains as important as ever. In November, turnout is expected to be as much as three times as high. This means, county officials need a stable of young poll workers to step up and help their communities on election day.