Commentary, Defending Democracy

Pass it on: Now is the time to sign up to help at the polls

Image: NC State Board of Elections

The good people at the group Higher Ed Works published the following call to action last week that they directed at college graduates. The truth, however, is that the plea is applicable to all healthy North Carolinians, regardless of whether they attended college or not.

Please share the message with friends and family members ASAP.

We often hear that college graduates show greater civic engagement (see also here and here). Well they have an opportunity to do just that approaching.

Across North Carolina and beyond, local election boards are viewing this year’s election with trepidation. Many – if not most – poll workers are 70 or older and understandably reluctant to spend 16 hours on Election Day speaking with relative strangers in the midst of a global pandemic.

Those voters might or might not wear masks or practice proper social distancing. So older poll workers’ apprehensions are well-advised.

But if college graduates are indeed more civically engaged, now is precisely the time for young graduates to step up and do a public service by making sure the mechanics of our democracy work properly.

Election officials operate the polls during early voting and Election Day. They set up voting equipment, check in voters, process ballots, help voters with special needs, and secure the site at the end of the day. Normally, an election worker must be a registered voter who lives in the precinct. But because of special demands this year, the State Board of Elections says some poll workers can work outside their home precinct.

This requires modest training. The time to act is now – not a week before Election Day.

So university alumni associations, please encourage young graduates to show they want our democracy to work right amid the massive disruption of COVID-19. And younger alumni, please contact your county board of elections to ask how you can help, or fill out this form for the State Board of Elections.

In the midst of a pandemic, it might be more important than ever.

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