As the 2020 Presidential election is quickly approaching, the Georgia Youth Poll Worker Project and other similar organizations are looking to put an end to voter suppression in Black and Latino communities across the country by recruiting college-aged students to work the polling precincts.
Evan Marlbrough is leading the charge to offset the poll worker shortage by recruiting college students. The recent graduate of Georgia State created the Georgia Youth Poll Workers Project on July 1 and has since made national headlines.
“We need to have better access to the polls themselves, and poll workers are the key to doing that because the more poll workers you have the more precincts you can staff,” said Marlbrough.
This 2020 election is one like no other as it is occurring during a global pandemic. In the 2018 election, around 58 percent of U.S. poll workers were ages 61 and older, with 27 percent of people within that group over the age of 70 according to the Pew Research Center. With COVID-19 hitting the elderly community the hardest, this has resulted in a national poll worker shortage.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Marlbrough was one of the only people trained and the precinct became his first job after college. This sparked a lucrative initiative for students to make money and ensure that his community will not be one consumed by voter suppression.
He began his activism journey after writing an opinion piece for Georgia State, which turned into a call-to-action after it prompted enough students to sign up to staff the polling precinct on Georgia State’s campus.
The Georgia Youth Poll Workers Project has since garnered the support from several organizations, including the Black American Music Association (BAM) and the Voting Rights Are Civil Rights Initiative and together their goal is to recruit Gen Z to help staff the polls.
Spear-headed by Eric Cohen, The Voting Rights Are Civil Rights Initiative was created to address the suppression issues specifically in voting within the African American community.
“The places where most votes were rejected or where voter numbers were down happen to be the African American communities and mostly the swing states, and that was no accident,” said Cohen. “I set out to put together a coalition of experts in various areas to help address these issues.”
Cohen is devoting his efforts in the search for poll workers to young people and college students. He views this role as an opportunity to actively practice their activism as another form of protest.
The strategy for this initiative included aligning with several entertainment industry groups with hopes of bringing cultural relevance that will encourage Gen Z to work the polls.
“The artists, especially amongst the youth, have a direct line where kids actually listen to them. So if you can get rid of [voter suppression] by recruiting younger kids that understand technology, that want to get paid, that are active in political circumstances already, then that’s a win-win for everybody,” said Cohen.
Ion Sancho, best known for his work as a Leon County Supervisor of Elections in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore recount, is working in conjunction with the Civil Rights Are Civil Rights Initiative.
“Today, our efforts, allied with the greatest artists and talent we possess, act in concert to ensure all Americans can vote, fulfilling the real greatness of America, one nation, with liberty and justice for all,” said Sancho.
Politico reports that over 35,000 votes-by-mail didn’t count in Florida’s recent primary due to deadlines and technical flaws, which is why the coalition plans to begin targeting the major urban cities in swing states. The list includes the following Florida cities: Miami-Dade, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Ft. Myers, Lakeland, and Daytona Beach.
This is an initiative that transcends further than just Georgia, and is crucial for swing states like Florida. Marlbrough has a message for students and recent graduates striving to make an impact in their community.
“Be persistent, it’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows the entire time, trust me. If you really believe in your idea you should be willing to fight for it,” said Malbrough.
Since its launch four months ago, the Georgia Youth Poll Workers Project has recruited 800 students as poll workers; equal to 80 fully-staffed precincts.
If you or anyone you know is interested in job as a poll worker, visit www.pollhero.org.