AARP, state working to avoid poll worker shortage

State Election Commissioner Anthony J. Albence randomly draws one of the paper tallies for the Department of Elections’ audit of the Sept. 15 primary. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

DOVER — The threat of COVID-19 has put a different twist on poll worker ranks for Election Day 2020.

With the U.S. addressing a potential poll worker shortage, America’s seniority is turning to a youth movement to help fill important roles this year.

AARP Delaware recently announced a new initiative to enlist poll workers of all ages this November, working in collaboration with the Association of Young Americans, Power the Polls and the New Leaders Council to help ensure there is no shortage of workers at the polls.

“There is an urgent need for more poll workers this election, including people 50-plus and younger voters. We need to ensure that in-person voting is still an accessible and safe option, so that Delawareans can choose how they want to vote this year,” said Lucretia Young, AARP Delaware state director. “We will encourage all AARP members to communicate with their younger family and friends around the importance of voting and how to participate as a poll worker.”

In general, older people typically account for the lion’s share of poll workers in general elections. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data, nearly 6 in 10 poll workers (58%) were ages 61 and up in 2018. It was 56% in 2016.

However, with senior citizens among the most at-risk age groups for COVID-19, those ranks are likely to be lower as some seniors choose to stay home.

“The impact is that some of our usual workers do have some anxiety about the COVID-19 situation and have chosen not to work with this election cycle,” said Delaware Department of Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence. “We will need to recruit additional workers to fill these positions in light of this and are actively doing so.”

Many communities faced poll worker shortages even prior to the pandemic, according to Delaware AARP.

For the Nov. 3 general election, the Department of Elections expects to hire approximately 3,200 poll workers. Poll worker numbers for a presidential general election and off-year elections are generally consistent, Mr. Albence said.

“We expect to be around the same number of poll workers this year as in prior years,” Mr. Albence said. “There will be some reorientation of how poll workers are deployed at polling places given the new and different voting equipment we are now using.”

Compensation for poll workers includes $235 for inspectors, $195 for judges and $190 for clerks, Mr. Albence said.

In addition to working with the AARP, as well as the Millennial Summit, the Department of Elections is collaborating with the League of Women Voters, reaching out to college students, actively recruiting state employees and school district employees, and seeking high school students eligible to serve as poll workers.

“We continue to make progress on recruiting workers. We still are in the process of filling positions steadily but continue to welcome additional workers. Recruitment continues in all counties,” said Mr. Albence. “The most workers are needed in New Castle County, but all are making good progress in recruiting the workers needed.”

The Association of Young Americans, Power the Polls and the New Leaders Council aim to enlist more poll workers to ensure that in-person voting is still an available option. AARP will offer a range of resources on voting and tools to help with the poll worker shortage.

The Power the Polls initiative is also working with local organizations and partners to help election officials provide the necessary personal protection equipment to keep poll workers and voters safe.

In August, AARP launched “Protect Voters 50+,” a comprehensive voter engagement campaign to support and protect Americans 50 and older as they vote in the 2020 elections. The campaign will help older Americans vote safely, whether at home or in person.

The “Protect Voters 50+” campaign will provide people with the information they need about this year’s elections, including video voters’ guides, issue briefings, direct mail, text messaging, social media and paid media.

For more information, reach out to local election officials through workelections.com.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.