In 2018, Fair Elections Center created a new project to promote the important role of poll workers through piloting WorkElections.com, a unique web portal designed to centralize and simplify information on poll worker requirements and links to local jurisdictions’ applications. The endeavor was launched in nine states to help find poll workers who were young, bilingual, and tech savvy.  

Our work is an effort to create a more diverse pool of poll workers so they more closely reflect the communities of voters they help. Leading into 2020, we expanded WorkElections.com nationally, to include comprehensive information on poll worker requirements -- including voter registration and training requirements, hours, pay rates, and links to applications -- for more than 4,000 jurisdictions across the country. WorkElections is the first portal to compile all this information in simplified form and in one place.

For the 2020 general election, Fair Elections Center partnered with businesses, coalitions, and online companies promoting increased civic engagement among their employees and customers -- including The Civic Alliance, Time to Vote, Comedy Central, Levi Strauss & Co., MTV, Patagonia, Pizza to the Polls, and We Can Vote -- to expand our recruitment efforts with a major new initiative called Power the Polls.

We’ve saw the effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on primary elections, with thousands of mostly older poll workers deciding to stay home to protect their health. Many polling locations were shuttered as a result, contributing to long lines at the few remaining voting sites. If nothing was done, the same crisis was expected to impact the elections in the fall.

To help remedy this, we and our Power the Polls partners committed to recruiting 250,000 people to step up and serve as poll workers. 

Efforts included an improved website -- powered by WorkElections -- as well as a host of other outreach and support activities, including:

  • Connecting people and poll working: PowerThePolls.org directed visitors to sign up to be poll workers in their election jurisdictions, while retaining the information of those who expressed interest in serving for follow-up communications.

  • An effective follow-up strategy: To remind potential poll workers of their commitment to help the election go smoothly and to direct them to local jurisdiction information from WorkElections. 

  • Information to help recruit new poll workers: Created materials to explain what is involved in being a poll worker and sharing some testimonials.

  • Partnering with the business community: We worked with businesses to help recruit their employees to work at the polls—either by encouraging businesses to give employees Election Day off as a day of service or provide gift packages (merchandise, gift cards, etc.) as a “thank you” to those who serve.

  • Getting the word out: We reached out to nonprofit allies that could spread the word to their members, with a particular focus on recruiting younger and more diverse workers and promoting the need for bi-lingual speakers in areas with large numbers of language minority voters.

  • Helping keep poll workers and voters safe and informed: We provided up-to-date information from states on their efforts to keep voters and poll workers safe at the polls and referred potential poll workers to the latest CDC guidelines.

Press Release:

Power The Polls Launches First-of-its-Kind Effort to Recruit New Wave of Poll Workers for Election Day 

Select Media Coverage:

CNN -- Groups launch effort to mobilize poll workers amid coronavirus pandemic 6.20.20

Los Angeles Times -- Poll worker shortages are threatening the 2020 election. Young people can be the solution 6.30.20

NPR -- Wanted: Young People To Work The Polls This November 8.5.20

PBS Newshour -- States take lessons from chaotic primary season to prepare for an unprecedented election 9.10.20

CNBC -- There is a ‘big need’ for volunteer poll workers to help the election run smoothly this year. Here’s how to get involved 9.25.20

Ms. Magazine -- “A New Generation of Poll Workers” Steps Up to Ensure Safe, Fair Elections 10.1.20

Governing -- Supply of Election Poll Workers Rises as Demand Increases 10.8.20

New York Times -- With Polling Sites Lacking Workers, a New Generation Steps Up 10.12.20

NBC News -- Why young Black students are stepping in as poll workers this election season 10.28.20

Vogue Magazine -- How These First-Time Poll Workers Are Fighting for Democracy 10.28.20

USA Today -- The country needs poll workers. Young women are stepping up 10.31.20

Washington Post -- High-schoolers nationwide are volunteering to staff voting stations 11.3.20

New York Times -- After Warnings It Could Go Off the Rails, the Election Actually Ran Smoothly 11.7.20