Good poll workers are hard to find. Indeed, more than half the jurisdictions responding to the 2022 Election Administration and Voting Survey said that recruiting enough poll workers was “very” or “somewhat” difficult.
That sounds tough—but not as tough as 2018, when two-thirds of jurisdictions said the same in the annual survey conducted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
And it’s hard to account for the change. One answer might be the advent of National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, which is today, Aug. 23. As part of that effort, the commission has a Poll Worker Recruitment Toolkit for anyone interested in serving. The links lead potential poll workers to their local election office’s website. Poll workers provide an important service: In 2022 642,419 of them helped in-person voters. The number is expected to jump by an estimated 150,000 for next year’s presidential election.
Another reason for the change might be the creation of a nonpartisan nonprofit, Power the Polls, launched in June 2020.
Or maybe it’s because Americans who are interested in election accuracy and security are signing up more frequently now, given the amount of attention election administration has received since 2020, when it became front-page news.
Or could it be that state policies are making it a little easier for workers to get involved?
- Six states have recently funded poll worker pay raises: Alabama (HB 435), Louisiana (SB 369), Maryland (HB 1200), New Jersey (AB 208), New Mexico (SB 180) and Oklahoma (SB 290).
- Two states, Alabama (HB 312) and New Hampshire (HB 476), began allowing poll workers to serve outside of the precinct or town in which they vote, a measure that election officials say can help relieve partisan balance issues.
- Ten states have passed legislation to protect poll workers from harassment and intimidation: California (SB 1131), Colorado (HB 1273), Maine (HB 1354), Minnesota (HB 3), Nevada (SB 406), New Hampshire (SB 405), New Mexico (SB 43), Oklahoma (SB 481), Oregon (HB 4144) and Vermont (SB 265).
Election officials face three major problems in recruiting and retaining poll workers, according to NCSL’s latest thought piece on election workers:
- Poll workers are often paid close to minimum wage, and their pay is often delivered inefficiently.
- The requirement for political balance. Though requiring bipartisan poll worker teams is a long-standing practice, the specific restrictions often hinder worker recruitment.
- Poll workers, like election officials, face threats and harassment in the post-2020 political environment. The topic has received plenty of recent coverage, including in pieces from Politico and the BBC, and at the recent NCSL Legislative Summit.
Like law enforcement and military service members, poll workers fulfill a necessary and patriotic function in ensuring American freedom. If you are interested working at the polls in upcoming elections, consider reaching out to your local election office for more information.
Wendy Underhill directs NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.
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