Powering the Polls

August 20, 2020
Powering the Polls

Election season is in full swing, but this year we’re facing new, unique challenges due to COVID-19. Among them is an anticipated severe shortage of poll workers on Election Day. A majority of those staffing the polls are in an age demographic that makes them more vulnerable to the threats of the pandemic, with many likely to opt to stay home for safety’s sake.  

While the above may sound alarming, there is still time to tackle this predicament. If you’ve thought about what you can do to help make democracy work better, becoming a poll worker is an excellent opportunity to engage.

I’ve been a poll worker in the city of Somerville, MA for the past six years. I was inspired to act after a frustrating election experience. After waiting in line for almost an hour to vote, I was told I was an inactive voter and didn’t have the proper documentation on me. I realized that the only way to help prevent this type of miscommunication - and help make voting a bit more pleasant for my fellow citizens - was to get involved myself.

Being a poll worker is a long day of work, but it’s incredibly rewarding. You tangibly help make the process of voting easier. From setting up the polling location and welcoming in voters, to making sure their ballot is counted in the machine—you make the day run smoothly. Oh, and I should add that most states do pay you for your time. 

Harvard Votes Challenge has collaborated with two organizations to help connect Harvard community members with jurisdictions in need of poll workers. In Massachusetts, we’re working with the Safe Elections Network to help staff polling locations across the Bay State. You can sign up now for training and potential placement in a local area in need. If you’re based elsewhere in the U.S., we encourage you to signup via Power the Polls for opportunities in your local district. 

This initiative is open to all community members, not just students. Help us make sure everyone can vote safely on November 3!

—Melissa D'Anello
Assistant Director of Events and Outreach, Ash Center
Team member, HKS, Harvard Votes Challenge