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Note: Colorado is a mail-in ballot state, but they also offer in-person polls.; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios (Clickable link)

Local elections officials are sprinting to recruit younger poll workers ahead of November after elderly staff stayed home en masse to avoid coronavirus during primary elections.

Why it matters: A Pew Research analysis reports that 58% of U.S. poll workers in the 2018 midterms were 61 or older. Poll worker shortages can cause hours-long voting lines and shutter precincts.

  • Strenuous wait times often disenfranchise low-income workers and people of color — both groups that are more likely to work in shifts or have limited access to child care.

How it works: Poll workers generally receive training and compensation for their services. Common requirements for staff include...

  • Being registered to vote or high school student.
  • Being a resident of county you’re signing up in.
  • Not being a candidate or related to candidate.
  • Fluency in English, but other language skills are very high in demand.
  • Ability to work long hours with intermittent breaks.

The state of play: Officials in Milwaukee, which had just five polling places open for their April primaries due to labor shortages, are recruiting through high schools, colleges and youth organizations, per the Milwaukee Journal.

  • West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner has issued a call-to-arms for young people to staff November’s polling facilities, per the Weirton Daily Times.
  • A new poll-worker recruiting group “Power the Polls” is planning to fill social media with content incentivizing young people to staff elections.
  • Some states are counting on rules allowing individuals under 18 to staff polling places as a means to an end.

Between the lines: Election Day is not a federal holiday and young people will not have the day off of school. They can also face tight work schedules or have limited transportation.

  • But many young people have been civically mobilized by recent events, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

Go deeper

Voter suppression then and now

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Barry Lewis/Getty Images 

From its start, the United States gave citizens the right to vote — as long as they were white men who owned property. From counting a slave as 3/5 of a white man to the creation of the Electoral College, there's a through-line of barriers that extends to today based on racial politics.

Why it matters: 150 years after the 15th Amendment — and 55 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — people of color still face systemic obstacles to voting.

Nov 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Spotting political indicators without the polls

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With political polls looking close to useless, newsrooms are increasingly turning to internet trends, demographics and local news in an effort to crack America’s baffling political code.

Why it matters: This election proved that polls aren't the only way to measure public opinion trends — and that other measures, like social media, may give us a window into enthusiasm among populations that polls are missing.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Voters of color worry about militias, arrests

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.6% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Fears that armed militias, police or COVID-19 await them at the polls are disproportionately shaping how Americans of color think about in-person voting, according to an Ipsos poll for Axios.

Why it matters: Participation by voters of color could decide whether President Trump or Joe Biden wins, and whether Democrats take control of both chambers of Congress.

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