When you go to the polls in another week, thank and recognize the unsung and underappreciated heroes and heroines who are waiting there: the poll workers. Many are putting their lives – and the lives of their families – on the line with every election.
In 2020 and 2021, election officials were harassed, received death threats and often had their family threatened on a daily basis. This year looks to be no different – maybe even worse.
Poll workers, who work election after election, may also be giving up. In a recent survey, the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in five local election administrators say they are likely to leave their jobs before the 2024 presidential election. Many have already left.
When I went to vote in 2020, there was a big pickup truck parked out front, filled with vigilantes in camouflage and holding automatic weapons. The truck sported many rebel and American flags. I know that many people turned away from voting by this intimidation. I can only imagine what the poll workers went through walking by that every day.
The Right has been recruiting and training citizens to challenge votes. Mobilizing this year’s recent mass voter challenge charge is Voter GA, a group of election deniers that claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. In Arizona, armed vigilantes are standing at the ballot drop boxes, challenging people dropping off their ballots, especially in people of color neighborhoods. Many other states are following suit.
The recent horrific attack on the Speaker of the House’s husband, Paul Pelosi, in their own home, is a warning call to all of us about how much is at stake and how much folks sacrifice to be involved in public service.
We can’t afford to lose experienced poll workers and election officials to this intimidation. New people are being trained to work, but get minimal training for a job that might come with intimidation and threats. It’s up to us, not only to support and appreciate poll workers, but volunteer to become poll workers ourselves. I’ve volunteered to be a poll worker in my precinct.
We can also join the brave volunteers at polling places offering support to voters, such as lawyers to call when votes are challenged or turned away, videotaping the harassment, and calling sympathetic news outlets to hear what’s happening. Groups in North Carolina are providing “safety tents” in traditionally marginalized communities where people can go to ask questions, complain, get water or food, and a sympathetic ear.
As a start, please express gratitude, love and thank your poll workers when you vote.
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