Add this to your list of critical essential workers during this pandemic:
Many county elections directors started recruiting poll workers earlier than normal, are using new recruitment strategies, have increased pay and are partnering with the North Carolina State Board of Elections, political parties and voter rights groups to find people to work the election.
Officials anticipate a shortage of poll workers could cause longer lines, last-minute precinct closures and voter confusion. That was the case in Georgia and Wisconsin, where poll worker shortages during primaries caused precinct closures, hours-long lines and disenfranchised voters.
While it's true that absentee by-mail voting is going to increase substantially this year (the more the better), we're still only talking about maybe 1/3 of all votes. We need, now more than ever, properly-staffed and prolific early voting locations, and poll workers for all the precinct voting sites. The fact that many county BOEs have had their budgets cut due to a major drop in local revenues merely exacerbates a problem we knew we were going to have, since elderly volunteers usually make up the bulk of election workers, people who are extremely vulnerable to COVID 19:
The average age of North Carolina’s poll workers is “around 70” years old, according to a State Board of Elections memo. The older a person gets, the more vulnerable they are to serious illness or death due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that began spreading across the globe late last year.
“I think people may have great intentions about working, and then as we get closer, if COVID is still a big prominent thing, people are going to be scared to work,” said Sara Knotts, Brunswick County’s election director.
I do not recommend lightly that people place themselves in potentially dangerous situations. I wouldn't tell you to go enjoy a sit-down restaurant meal to help boost the economy, or to go to a fitness center and sweat it out. But this is different. Preserving democracy is worth the risk, and the last four years have shown us what is at stake.