The 2020 presidential election has already broken records in Madison, where 6,000 people signed up to work the polls — double the amount of people that signed up in 2016, 2012 and 2008.
These poll workers vary in age, background and experience. First-year poll worker Mia Cheeseman said she chose to sign up this year because she wanted to “take part in democracy.” Cheesman took a shift at the Madison Municipal Building, along with seasoned poll worker Erik Pettersen.
Pettersen said he has worked the polls at the Madison Municipal Building for the past eight years, and his interest in the voting process motivated him to first get involved back in 2012.
“I just liked the way elections work and stuff and just thought that I would put time into working the polls because it’s fun, it’s a long day though,” Pettersen said.
Just spoke with poll workers at the Madison Municipal Building for @BadgerHerald this is Erik Pettersen’s 8th year working at this location, he says they just finished counting absentee ballots and that they had over 1,000, which is more than he has seen past years pic.twitter.com/SZ4eikbDOr
— Molly DeVore (@mollydevore1) November 3, 2020
Pettersen started his shift just before 6 a.m., and said he would probably leave at around 9 p.m. When he spoke with The Herald at around 4 p.m., he said the Municipal Building had only seen about 100 in-person voters, but since many people chose to vote absentee over COVID-19 concerns, that made sense.
Over on campus, a group of University of Wisconsin students staffed the voter registration booth outside the Nicholas Recreation Center, which served voters living in Ward 55.
I'm on campus for @BadgerHerald's election day coverage and right now there are no lines in sight for the WI Energy Institute (polling site for students in most Lakeshore dorms) or the First Congregational Church (Ward 61 site). It's also a beautiful day. #MadisonWI pic.twitter.com/wZX5v65uiP
— Mary Magnuson (@MaryMagnuson7) November 3, 2020
Poll worker and student Zach Zalewski said he chose to work the polls this year in part because of COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on the older population.
“Usually, a lot more senior citizens handle the voting process and so, with the pandemic and everything, we just decided that it would be better for slightly less at-risk populations to handle more of the voting this year,” Zalewski said.
Poll worker and student Eva Goldman said the registration process only takes about three minutes. When she spoke with The Herald around 1 p.m., she said they’d already registered 50 to 100 people, with plenty of others already registered, headed straight into the polls.
Goldman said since a UW Wiscard doesn’t count as a voter ID, it’s difficult for students — particularly out-of-state students — to vote, and, until recently, COVID-19 also made it difficult to get a campus-issued voter ID.
“There’s just so many extra steps you need to take as a student and I had a lot of trouble doing it last year when I registered to vote,” Goldman said. “So I wanted to make sure that everyone was able to register and get the vote out.”