Scores of jurisdictions have reported to the Election Assistance Commission that poll worker recruitment is "very" or "somewhat" difficult, according to the Presidential Commission.111 There are several obstacles to recruiting poll workers, including the fact that Election Day takes place in the middle of the workweek and too many employees cannot afford to take a day off to work the polls. Given rampant shortages of poll workers, state and local jurisdictions should provide incentives for people to join the pool of qualified individuals and increase the number of available workers.
The Commission made two specific recommendations: recruitment of high school and college students, and recruitment of employees in the private and public sector.112
Student Poll Worker Recruitment
Every state examined in this report has a statutory provision that allows high-school-aged students to serve as poll workers. The majority have special programs allowing 16- and 17-year- olds to serve as poll workers and election assistants. In general, these programs allow interested students who meet citizenship and other training requirements to volunteer as poll workers. This serves the duel purposes of fostering civic engagement and gaining the assistance of tech-savvy youth.
The scope of the programs varies. Among the states studied, Alaska has one of the most thorough youth poll-worker statutes, called its "Youth Vote Ambassador Program."113 It allows students 16 or older to be appointed as "youth vote ambassadors."114 After training, these ambassadors serve as poll workers. The law also authorizes an election supervisor to appoint a member of the Youth Vote Ambassador Program to serve on a precinct election board. Arkansas has a similar program that allows high school students to work as "election pages," and assist election officers and voters with disabilities as they enter and exit the polling place. It also grants election pages an excused absence from school. In Colorado, students 16 or older may serve as "student election judges," working at the polls to "promote greater awareness among young people concerning the electoral process, the rights and responsibilities of voters, and the importance of citizen participation in public affairs." In North Carolina, students must be at least 17 to serve as "student election assistants," provided that they are enrolled in school (or homeschooled), and have an "exemplary academic record" and a recommendation from the principal. In North Carolina, no more than two student poll workers may be assigned to any single polling place. Pennsylvania has a law very similar to North Carolina's -- students must be at least 17, exhibit an exemplary academic record, and obtain the approval of the school's principal. Michigan law also provides for high school poll workers, provided that a student is age 16 or older, but does not have many other requirements. In Kentucky, only one 17-year-old may serve in each precinct. In Louisiana, student voters must be 17 and in the 12th grade level at school or in a home study program, or already graduated from high school.
Two states do not have specific programs for students, but have age limits that would allow certain students to serve as poll workers. In Georgia, 16 is the minimum age to become a poll worker through the general process. Florida has no specific program, but allows 16- and 17- year-olds who have pre-registered to vote the opportunity to serve as poll workers.
Private and Public Employee Recruitment
Fewer states have requirements or laws that would expand jurisdictions' ability to recruit more public and private sector employees, but some provide several good incentives. Colorado has an exemplary state law that allows state public employees to take administrative leave, with pay, on Election Day (unless the employee's supervisor determines their work attendance is essential). Florida law recommends that election supervisors create programs within their communities to forge public and private partnerships to recruit poll workers. In Michigan, state employees receive a paid day off on even-year November general election dates, and according to the Secretary of State's office, local election officials are encouraged to recruit State employees as poll workers on these days.
Other states protect employees from losing their job for serving as poll workers. Kentucky allows any employee selected as an election officer to take a day off from work for training or working at the polls, without penalty or threat of penalty from their employers. There is a similar protection for poll workers in North Carolina, where state law prohibits any employer from demoting or discharging an employee for appointment as a precinct official, so long as the employee gives at least 30-days' notice of her intent to serve.
There is significant room for innovation, however. States should expand administrative leave policies to cover public employees who agree to serve as poll workers, and more private employers should grant employees an opportunity to serve their neighbors without losing vacation time.
|FINDINGS BY STATE|