Despite a national poll worker shortage due to COVID-19, Madison and Dane County clerks filled positions with the influx of younger poll workers from the area.
The Madison City Clerk’s Office indicated there are twice as many officials than there were in the November 2016, 2012 and 2008 presidential elections.
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While most poll workers are normally older volunteers, this demographic faces a greater risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19. This led to a nationwide shortage of poll workers and created longer delays and more closed polling sites all over the country.
In April, Milwaukee had only five polling sites, rather than its usual 180, due to these shortages and other COVID-19 complications, according to Isthmus. For this November election, however, Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell said students have stepped in to fill in the county’s poll worker shortage.
“We are in good shape for election day,” McDonell said.
Because of the influx of student poll workers, Madison’s City Clerk’s Office is no longer even accepting poll worker applications. 6,000 poll workers have signed up to work at voting sites on Nov. 3.
McDonell said the reason for this rise in poll workers is because there is a rising concern among the student population about the future of America’s democracy.
“[Students have] a real sense that our democracy is being challenged, and that’s upsetting,” McDonell said. “And this way is a practical thing that citizens can do to affirm their support for our form of government.”
McDonell said there is still more work to be done in other surrounding communities. Dane County is doing better than its surrounding, rural areas because it has more resources, McDonell said.
At the University of Wisconsin, students have started the initiative, “The Campus Compact Safe Elections Project,” where 300 students have been trained in order to recruit other students and promote election education and digital organization.
The Campus Compact Safe Elections Project is still working to find poll workers for other areas in Wisconsin that need the help, such as Green Bay, Milwaukee and Beloit.
“I think [we] will benefit from this for years on because a lot of times we’ve had coworkers who were a little on the older side, so getting a new batch of folks trained and having done [this] before is going to be … a great advantage going forward as well,” McDonell said.