Commonwealth, nation deal with shortage of poll workers for upcoming presidential election

AP Poll Virus Outbreak Voting
Posted at 1:03 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 22:37:39-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Voting no doubt will look different on November 3 in the Commonwealth: More masks, more plexiglass and more social distancing, but perhaps a decline in dedicated poll workers involved in the democratic process.

"We are seeing a shortage of poll workers across our state. We need to make up for shortfall with people not high-risk to keep polling placing open and operating," said Governor Ralph Northam in a press conference last week.

That call to action prompted 28-year-old Norfolk resident Amy Joaquim to get involved again this year.

"We are used to relying on our older population people who are retired to staff the polls, but they are most at risk for COVID-19," said Joaquim.

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 58% of co-workers in the 2018 general election were over the age of 60.

34-year-old Gloucester resident Heather Johnson is also ready to give her time to the polls. She says it’s a great way to connect with her community and learn the behind-the-scenes processes.

"Seeing the other side, what all goes into it, makes you appreciate the process, the security, and it makes you appreciate more how important it really is and not just putting a bubble in a box," said Johnson.

There is a nationwide shortage of poll workers this year – COVID-19 the main reason, but it's usually a 12-hour day, minimum pay and a fair amount of stress. That means it's hard to attract new workers.

"There are a lot of benefits to doing it," said Amy. "I have learned so much about voting, elections, voting regulations, and so I take that knowledge and I can be a resource for co-workers, friends and my community."

Millennials are going to need to do their part this year to fill in the gap. The City of Virginia Beach, for example, says they need around 1,200 poll workers for a presidential election as opposed to the usual 800. Compensation pay is $160 for the day.

"An election just can't happen without poll workers," said Joaquim. "It is a great feeling knowing you are part of this critical piece of what our country was founded on."

To register to become a poll worker, click here.